As 2019 splutters to a close, it’s time for our annual lookback at our most-read tech stories, and to ask: “What happened next?”.
Facebook and its family of apps dominates this year’s list with four entries – it probably won’t be a surprise that none of them were particularly brand-enhancing.
The Chinese viral video app TikTok makes the cut for the first time. And many of the other “big tech” names are there too in one form or another.
But there are a few notable exceptions. Neither Elon Musk nor Tesla made it, despite the window-smashing launch of the Cybertruck and plans to hack our brains. Google’s co-founders were originally on the list after deciding to give up day-to-day control of their empire, but were squeezed out just before publication.
Video gaming also missed out, even though Prince Harry attracted lots of attention for suggesting Fortnite should be banned.
In any case, here’s what attracted most eyeballs in each month of the year:
A leak forced Facebook to reveal plans to merge the behind-the-scenes tech of messaging on WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram. The effort was reported to be a pet project of chief executive Mark Zuckerberg.
He later justified the move saying it would draw the three products closer together, making it easier for users to send posts between them. Furthermore, he said it would also help the firm expand its end-to-end encryption features, which help keep the messages secure.
Many observers noted, however, the action would also make it more difficult to split the company apart. And as the year went on that became a growing threat, with first Senator Elizabeth Warren and then other Democratic presidential candidates suggesting Facebook has too much power and influence.
But it may not take a change of administration for Mr Zuckerberg’s ambitions to be thwarted. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that the Federal Trade Commission may intervene to prevent the apps being integrated.
Social media, the mainstream news and even the police all got in a tizzy over Momo for no good reason in February. It was claimed that youngsters’ social media accounts were being “hacked” to show the bulging-eyed monster alongside “challenges” that would put their lives at risk.
Online articles followed, linking more than 100 teenagers’ deaths in Russia to the sensation. Except, of course, there was no evidence to back up any of this.
This was not even the first time an image of the Japanese bird-woman sculpture had gone viral. There had been a similar smaller-scale scare in 2018 when the “game” had been linked to deaths in South America and India – again without any documented proof.
Pundits described it as a “panic [that] won’t go away”. Except it did.
These days a search for Momo on Twitter turns up ads for masks of the ghoul, but little else.
And on TikTok the hashtag #momochallenge surfaces videos of people cooking and eating small dumplings that go by the same name in parts of Asia.
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