2019 was full of shocking, heartfelt, funny, and somewhat confusing moments in the tech space and beyond. Now more than ever, technology holds power in shaping our economy and culture, and the world is watching closely. With this comes many a jaw-dropping headline, seven of which we’ve rounded up today! Check out the top seven moments that took the tech world (and our office) by storm in the last 12 months.
Google’s Quantum Supremacy
On October 24, computing experts and tech enthusiasts were buzzing when Google announced its biggest quantum computing feat feat to date: One of their experimental quantum computers, called Sycamore, solved a problem so quickly that it achieved “quantum supremacy”. The quantum computer completed a complex computation in 200 seconds, which, according to researchers at the University California, would take even the most powerful supercomputers nearly 10,000 years to finish. Go Google!
In July, more than 100 million people were swooning over FaceApp, a Russian made photo editing app which could alter faces to appear younger or older. Soon after the app went viral, non-verified sources claimed that the app has ties to nefarious cyber activity by the Russian state, and that users could be at risk of having their identities stolen. These concerns led to a full-blown FBI investigation, which recently came to a close. Their findings solidified that the app posed no pressing dangers to the general public, but that concerns are valid for anyone who holds a high-profile name, or government security clearance.
Facebook’s SpyWare VPN App
Back in January, a TechCrunch investigation unveiled that Facebook had been secretly paying people, including teens as young as 13, to install a “Facebook Research” VPN that lets the company access all of the user’s phone and web activity. Within hours of the story being released, Facebook announced that it would be shutting down the iOS version of its Research app Onavo.
Tesla’s Cybertruck Launch
In November, Elon Musk revealed a prototype of Tesla’s latest product—the Cybertruck. It’s non-traditional shape and stainless-steel exterior polarized the internet for several days. Not to mention, the launch event featured a total fail when Musk asked a Tesla engineer to test out the strength of the truck’s ‘armor glass’ windows using a rock.
Disney+ & the Dark Web
Just hours after it’s long-anticipated launch on November 18, thousands of Disney+ accounts were found for sale on hacking forums and the dark web. Hackers gained access to accounts by using email and password combos leaked at other sites, while in other cases the Disney+ credentials were obtained from users infected with keylogging or info-stealing malware.
The Pentagon’s JEDI Contract
Over the course of 2019, tech’s biggest players lined up for a chance at the US Department of Defense’s highly coveted Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure plan contract, or JEDI. The $10 billion-dollar contract would encompass a migration of the entire military infrastructure to the cloud, which will help speed up war planning, and enable the US military to advance its use of AI. The contract was awarded to Microsoft, with Amazon placing as a close contender (and not happy about it, either).
Larry Page & Sergey Brin Step Down from Google
Finally, some more recent tech news that shook the world. Earlier this month, Google’s co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin announced that they would be stepping down from their respective roles at Alphabet, Google’s parent company. With a combined net worth of over $123 billion, the billionaire executives decided to step down from the company in lieu of exploring new business interests. According to the pair, Alphabet “no longer needed two CEOs and a President”.