In ten years, a lot has been changed in the tech industry. On January 1st, 2010, Steve Jobs was already the CEO of Apple, and the hottest Android phone was the freshly minted Motorola Droid. Facebook was already a fledgeling, having just achieved viability. Uber has not yet entered in App store, and Spotify had not yet entered the United States. Tinder, Twitch, and TikTok tech didn’t even exist. In the long run, the events in the tech industry of the last ten years begin to converge into a few major themes. Globally, social networks have consolidated and developed, causing new questions over their political influence.
Faced with the threat of piracy, entertainment providers exchanged hard copy revenue for monthly subscription fees. The founder’s cult withered as forums devolved into an ongoing battle between moderators and moderated. Technology, which has once been political, has been partisan and has begun to splinter. Growing up, we spoke a lot about the tech world, but this is how it happened — brick by brick, one moment at a time. These moments are a nice place to learn if you want to appreciate how we got here.
Table of Contents
Google Exits China
Recently, US tech giants have struggled to cope with China, trapped between the allure of a billion potential users and the challenge of omnipresent monitoring and censorship. But the uneasy tango had been going on for a long time before Apple opened its doors in Beijing. Google has been working in China since 2000, making major censorship concessions to the government while believing that a searchable internet would push China to open up in the years to come.
It was ineffective. The Great Firewall remained in place, and while Google’s moral sacrifices were more painful, China did not open up in response. Google eventually gave up the ghost in January 2010, after a concerted cyberattack and mounting pressure from human rights activists, lifting the censorship blocks mandated by the Chinese government and being blocked almost immediately by party censors. It was a landmark moment for Google, as well as an early recognition that better information systems could not necessarily transform the environment.
The Launch of the iPhone 4
The growth of the smartphone formally began with the introduction of the first iPhone in 2007 in the tech industry, but it truly began with the release of the iPhone 4 in 2010. The iPhone 4 had an all-time awesome Apple look, added a high-resolution monitor and selfie camera, and demonstrated that smartphones with rear cameras could be useful. More importantly, several months after its release, it became the first iPhone to be available on all major US carriers. As the iPhone 4 entered the tech market, Android phones were only beginning to appear in the tech industry, but it would be years until they could equal Apple’s consistency and attention to detail. The iPhone 4 demonstrated what a premium phone could look like. Even if today’s phones are much larger and quicker, they are still built in the style of 2010’s best smartphone.
Death of Google Wave
Google Wave was nothing if not optimistic. Unfortunately, it arrived at a time when Google had a lot of ambition but absolutely no follow-through. Wave, named after the science fiction show Firefly, was a shared web editing platform built for text and media that could act as a networking tech anywhere between instant messaging and public forum threading.
It was a clever idea to use the web’s open existence as the basis for a new form of online communication. Unfortunately, Google had no idea what Wave was going to do or who it was intended for. The tech service was launched in 2009, only for Google to discontinue the development of the standalone version two months later. By January 2012, all previous Wave material had been read-only tech, and it was permanently erased four months later.
The Apache Software Foundation picked this tech up and maintained an open-source tech version until 2018, but Wave has since been a bit of a business gag and a go-to reference point for the search giant’s penchant for announcing half-baked goods and destroying them almost immediately.
Spotify Comes To The US!!
As Spotify first arrived in the United States in 2011, it forever altered the way we listen to music. Spotify was not the first music streaming service in the United States, but it combined the capabilities of providers such as Pandora, Last.FM, and SoundCloud into a single bundle. There was algorithm personalisation, interactive listening, streaming models, and tens of millions of tracks, all of which were free with advertising.
For music fans, the model was and still is a no-brainer, and rivals such as Google, Apple, and Tidal soon followed suit. For artists, the current streaming world has become something of a mixed bag: more music is now being listened to than ever before, but revenue from those streams seems to be largely inaccessible — particularly from free listeners. Although the economics are concerning, it is now obvious that there is no turning back.
Netflix Becomes Qwikster!!
It’s difficult to believe today, but before the streaming boom, Netflix was better known for renting out DVDs by mail. By 2011, it was clear that internet streaming was the way of the future, but it was still clear that mail delivery would continue to be the larger industry for many years to come. It was time to get the two together, and creative leadership was needed. Regrettably, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings messed things up.
He combined the two subscriptions, which meant Netflix subscribers had to pay again for the same streaming-plus-DVDs package they’d had for years. Worse, he called the DVD rental service Qwikster, which sounds more like a rural convenience store than a cutting-edge entertainment organisation.
Overall, the blunder cost the company 800,000 customers, and Hastings spent the next year apologising. Netflix would rebound in the years that followed, and Hastings would become a key strategist of the move to streaming video, but the Qwikster fiasco remains a reminder of how difficult such transitions can be.
Death of Steve Jobs!!!
No one was more central to the tech world’s picture of itself than Steve Jobs, and his passing was a cataclysm for the industry. The failure seemed unlikely inside Apple. Jobs represented all of Apple’s best and worst qualities: perfectionism, self-satisfaction, and desire to upend whole markets as a better direction became available. It wasn’t clear how far those traits could go beyond the guy himself. Apple couldn’t work without him. Looking back, we can see the Apple remained true to itself. The iPad was not the last major product update, nor was the iPhone 4 the last successful iPhone.
Apple’s aspirations have only expanded, with the business growing into television, personal assistants, and health surveillance. Tim Cook has been a triumph by every measure, but his reign will be remembered as the post-Jobs age, and Jobs’ spirit looms over the business like an unfulfilled promise.
The email exchanges between Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and former chief financial officer David Ebersman have been made public by the US House antitrust subcommittee, showing that the corporation (and Zuckerberg in particular) tried to purchase Instagram to circumvent competition which may have harmed the social network.
During the testimony of the Big Tech CEOs, including Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Google’s Sundar Pichai, and Apple’s Tim Cook, Rep Jerry Nadler (D-NY) interrogated Zuckerberg about the Instagram acquisition on Wednesday. According to the emails, Zuckerberg decided to buy Instagram because it was posing a threat to Facebook.
The Avengers Premieres
There is a future where The Avengers didn’t catch on, where the plot aspects didn’t quite come together, audiences didn’t react, and Disney CEO Bob Iger and Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige didn’t feel secure going forward with Feige’s complex plans for a Marvel Cinematic Universe. In one iteration of the matrix, The Avengers essentially become the Justice League, and Disney had to work out what to do with the $4 billion lands that were purchased. For instance, it is not what occurred.
The Avengers were a success, ushering in a decade of superhero blockbusters and forever altering Hollywood’s logic. Marvel movies have already more than repaid Disney’s $4 billion investment in 2009, and they’ve offered superhero enthusiasts and comic book lovers a plethora of new stories to nerd out about. The Avengers began an epic 22-movie stretch, which ended with the $3 billion success of Avengers: Endgame. It marked the culmination of the franchise era and the beginning of the cinematic universe.
The Oculus Rift Arrives on Kickstarter
Virtual reality was considered to be extinct… until it wasn’t. The Oculus Rift vowed to drag market VR out of the 1990s by cleverly transforming handheld hardware into a low-cost headset with an otherworldly impact on consumers. Doom co-creator John Carmack backed the Rift, as did almost 10,000 Kickstarter supporters who contributed a total of $2.4 million for the first production package.
This campaign paved the way for Facebook’s $2 billion takeovers and a huge VR buzz surge, as well as the odd, continuing saga of Palmer Luckey. While it has yet to convert into commercial popularity, the Oculus-fueled VR boom has proved to be one of the decade’s oddest and most intriguing phenomena.
The Launch of Tinder
It’s difficult for me to recall the moment before the swipe. Did I meet potential dates in… bars? What between parties? What for dorms? What if I couldn’t click left or right on thousands of people from the safety of my bed on a cold winter night? Tinder debuted in 2012, ushering in the decade of the swipe. Simultaneously, it de-stigmatized online dating and alarmed some people into thinking that we have somehow been tainted, bad people.
Tinder was not the first online dating project, but it created a new paradigm on what we expected from such applications. The convoluted questionnaires, as well as the complex accounts and messaging schemes, had vanished. Instead, you’re presented with a long row of faces and a simple binary option: swipe left or swipe right. For better or worse, the way people meet and date will never be the same again.
Adobe Commits To Creative Cloud
Photoshop CS6 cost $700 when it was launched in 2012, and it quickly became one of the most pirated pieces of software in history. At the moment, the Adobe Creative Suite featured tools for graphic design, web design, and video editing. It was too powerful to be inexpensive, and it was so pervasive in a culture that many people didn’t even bother paying for it. Adobe realised that selling Photoshop would exacerbate the crisis, so they opted to start renting it instead.
On May 6, 2013, the company announced that all upcoming updates of Photoshop would be available exclusively via the subscription-based Creative Cloud, which sold the whole suite of applications for $50 a month. It was a brilliant decision, capitalising on the subscription model that was already gaining traction in music and television. Customers became disappointed with the thought of no longer being able to own their software, but it solved the financial dilemma. Adobe ended the marketing of CS6 in 2017, and the firm made $9 billion in sales the next year. The business has never looked back.
Edward Snowden Reveals The NSA’s PRISM Project
Prior to PRISM, the notion that the government had secret ties to technology firms was the stuff of Reddit posts. That was modified by Edward Snowden. Classified records revealed an ongoing National Security Agency campaign, codenamed “PRISM,” to steal data from the world’s largest technology firms. Diagrams depicted direct access to accounts at Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, and even AOL — businesses that, together, impacted almost all on the internet.
The industry hurried to demonstrate that they were unaware of the scheme, and subsequent leaks seemed to indicate that the NSA had deliberately broken into internal networks to protect the data, but the lack of confidence was irreversible. Following PRISM, it was difficult to imagine that private data could be really private in the cloud.
Facebook Buys WhatsApp
WhatsApp is an ad-free smartphone platform that allows users to send unlimited messages to friends without connecting to a cellular network or incurring data charges. The software is free to use and serves as an alternative to the standard text message network provided by the cell operator. Jan Koum and Brian Acton, both former Yahoo! executives, created the service.
When Facebook revealed its intentions to buy WhatsApp in February 2014, the company’s owners added a $16 billion acquisition price: $4 billion in cash and the remaining $12 billion in Facebook stock. This sum is dwarfed by the real price paid by Facebook: $21.8 billion, or $55 per person.
This was the point at which 4chan platform war tactics spread to the rest of the world, and the targeted abuse issue became unavoidable. Gamergate grew from a feud between culturally ambitious gaming reviewers and a claque of revanchist supporters to a free-floating snowball of grievances. Targets were marked, doxxed, and inundated with warnings and offensive tweets. Around the same time, it became more difficult for observers to understand what was going on. For months, just mentioning the word on Twitter would elicit scores of partisans who insisted it was all about journalistic integrity. The clear goals and classes have disappeared, but the tactics and free-floating misogyny feel like an unavoidable part of the internet these days.
The Launch Of The Amazon Echo
When the Amazon Echo was launched in January 2015, we called it “one of the most convincing examples [we’ve] ever seen for the power of voice control.” That power has grown undeniably over the years. Voice activation is now pervasive — on our tablets, in our vehicles, and on our televisions — and the Echo has stayed at the centre of the pack, due in part to its low-cost relative, the Echo Dot. “Alexa,” the wake word, has been the punchline for hundreds of jokes.
Google Lets A Blind Man Drive
Steve Mahan is one of the first people to travel in a complete tech driverless vehicle on a public road on a sunny day in October 2015. The case was noteworthy for many causes, the most notable of which was Mahan’s legal blindness and his ride in a concept vehicle from Google’s self-driving car unit (now renamed Waymo) that lacked a steering wheel and pedals. It also aided in the start of what has been a multibillion-dollar quest to commercialise self-driving cars. Since then, the race has had regulatory and technological setbacks, but the first trip with Mahan made it look a lot like the future of transportation.
The Signing of the Paris Climate Accord
As islands started to disappear under rising water levels and record-breaking hurricanes caused unimaginable destruction, both of the world’s nations eventually agreed to tackle climate change together in 2015. Countries pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions enough to prevent global warming from hitting dangerous levels with the implementation of the pivotal Paris climate agreement.
Climate scientists have criticised the deal as fragile, and politicians such as President Trump believe that even half-measures are too strong. Nonetheless, despite its flaws, the Paris agreement remains the gold standard for a concerted international approach to climate change. If mankind is able to escape the most disastrous consequences of climate change, Paris can be credited with pointing the way.
SpaceX Lands A Rocket
Throughout the evolution of spaceflight, almost any rocket that took off vertically became trash until it entered orbit. Rockets did not have an easy path back to Earth after they had launched their spacecraft, so they mostly fell back to Earth, unable to be retrieved. Elon Musk hoped to improve that with his tech company, SpaceX, scripting each rocket to relight its engines as it descended, dropping itself slowly onto a concrete landing pad or autonomous drone ship.
But, as difficult as it is, making things happen was much more difficult. The rockets simply exploded on impact in the first few attempts, which Musk dubbed “rapid unscheduled disassemblies,” or RUDs. It was unclear how long the series of crash landings will continue, but SpaceX eventually landed on December 21st, 2015, with the company’s Falcon 9 rocket softly touching down on a concrete pad at Cape Canaveral, Florida. The novelty track would quickly become mundane. Since then, SpaceX has landed a total of 46 tech boosters, with RUDs being increasingly uncommon.
Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica Scandal
When Facebook wanted to share user data with third-party users, it envisioned a more integrated and social environment. It certainly did not expect to single-handedly make people all over the world worry about data protection. But that is precisely what happened when The Guardian broke the news about Cambridge Analytica, a shadowy consultancy company that harvested data from millions of unwitting Facebook users.
The tech company took advantage of a flaw in Facebook’s API to threaten Facebook users and their contacts with a questionnaire intended to support the Trump campaign in reaching out to prospective supporters more efficiently.
Facebook’s reputation deteriorated as a result of the fallout. Dozens of privacy controversies ensued, as corporations seemed legally incapable of keeping data safe. It was the beginning of the end for Facebook and the market as a whole, and the tech company immediately began refactoring its APIs and rethinking how it uses customer data in general. We’re only in the midst of the transition, so it’s already resulting in one of the tech industry’s most intense political backlashes.
Logan Paul Films A Dead Body In Japan’s “Suicide Forest”
YouTube has a great decade, but the last few years have been difficult. We first used the word “creators” in the early 2010s, and YouTube used its biggest stars to place itself as more than just a streaming site in the minds of advertisers. Much of that came crashing down in 2017 and 2018 when two of YouTube’s most famous creators became involved in massive controversies at the same time. First, PewDiePie, a well-known gaming and satirical figure used anti-Semitic language in a video.
Then, in a notorious tech incursion into Japan’s Aokigahara forest, prankster-turned-vlogger Logan Paul demonstrated a brazen disrespect for human existence. Both videos emphasised the platform’s most famous tech creators’ messy and contentious personalities. The same users who had been heralded as the future of YouTube were now the community’s most visible issues. Years since, YouTube is still unsure what to do with it.
Elon Musk Tweets About Taking Tesla Private Then Doesn’t
Elon Musk tweeted on August 7th, 2018, “Am considering taking Tesla private at $420.” “Funding has been secured.” Those nine words triggered one of Tesla’s most turbulent periods, which resulted in Musk losing his chairmanship and paying a $20 million fine to the government. As it turned out, Musk did not have any funds obtained, despite having spoken with Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund many times about supporting the privatisation effort.
And because the promise of a massive stock buyback sent share prices skyrocketing, the casual boast began to resemble securities fraud. The Justice Department is currently looking at the botched bid, but some plaintiffs have already filed a lawsuit against Musk for market fraud. It could go down as one of the most costly tech tweets ever received.
It’s one of the most egregious cases of erratic engineering tech leadership, but it’s far from an isolated event. When he wasn’t busy selling flamethrowers and shooting vehicles into orbit, Musk barely avoided a defamation case. The cult of tech pioneers peaked this decade, with devastating consequences for businesses like WeWork and Theranos. Elon shows us both sides of the coin — the genius and the disaster.
The Camp Fire Rages Through California
In 2018, the deadliest and most damaging fire in California history almost destroyed the town of Paradise, California, destroying 18,804 buildings and killing 85 people. Wildfires have a long tradition in California, but their size and destruction have grown in recent years as a result of climate change. The Camp Fire struck in the midst of California’s longest drought in recorded history.
The drought lasted nearly a decade, from 2011 to 2019, producing arid conditions that fuelled longer and more severe fire seasons. Since Pacific Gas and Electric was blamed for igniting the Camp Fire with its power lines, utilities carried out major preemptive blackouts that could become more widespread in the future.
In the years after the burn, we’ve seen a new wave of climate advocacy, from high-profile personalities like Greta Thunberg to larger movements like the Sunrise Movement and Extinction Rebellion. It’s difficult to pinpoint a common reason for the current wave of activism, but extreme incidents like the Camp Fire are a huge part of it — yet another way climate change has hit us in the face this decade and prompted us to pay attention.
Spotify Gets Into Podcasting
Spotify ceased referring to itself as a music company in 2019 and began referring to itself as an audio tech company, a slight change intended to bring podcasts into the fold. The tech business began buying podcast networks such as Parcast and Gimlet Media, as well as the podcast production software Anchor. It sought high-profile partnerships with the Obamas, new playlist schemes, and more precise ad targeting.
It’s a novel approach to podcasting, which has developed into a massive tech and decentralised marketplace. However, if Spotify’s gamble pays off, it might position the tech firm at the centre of its own ad marketplace while also taking a bite out of Apple.
Apple Cancels AirPower
The decade ended in one of Apple’s most humiliating moments: the abrupt termination of AirPower tech, its wireless charging pad. The product seemed useful; the tech was designed to charge three computers at the same time, but reports indicated that it overheated. When AirPower struggled to reach its initial 2018 release date, it proved to be an unannounced delay, which is not rare considering Apple’s secretive product cycle.
In March, new photos of AirPower appeared on Apple’s website and also on the packaging of Apple’s second-generation AirPods, indicating that the device was still available. However, at the end of March, Apple suddenly cancelled AirPower, stating plainly that it “does not meet our high expectations.” We will never know what happened with AirPower, but I think Apple may be much more reluctant to unleash new tech products before they are fully ready.
Wrapping It Up
Tech industry shifts in the event planning sector are not recent and have been occurring for decades. Consider how groundbreaking it was in the early 2000s to have free wifi at a meeting. Later, the idea of encouraging people to use their smartphones for information or assessment was a big step forward, and now we are looking at digitally exchanging vast volumes of information. However, it seems that advancements are occurring at a higher pace than ever before. If event planners want to remain on top of the industry, they must consider the changes and be ready to introduce them, as engaging attendees is becoming increasingly critical when calculating the ROI of an event.