2018 was a groundbreaking year for the tech industry. Over the course of the past 12 months, we saw some important news stories emerge. Stories that defined not only the tech industry but also touched the world beyond.
Here's a recap of the best.
1) Cryptocurrency collapse
If 2017 was the year when the cryptocurrency market scaled new highs – Bitcoin reaching an all-time high of $20,000 – then 2018 proved to be the year when the crypto-market saw a period of correction.
So much so that by the end of the first month of 2018, the value of the poster boy of cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin, was slashed by half to $10,000 – and as of today, it's plummeted to $3,785.
Now, there are a number of factors behind why Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies such as Ripple and Ethereum nose-dived in 2018, but the biggest one is tighter government regulations – even bans.
Case in point, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and its diktat on April 6 which sealed the fate of the cryptocurrency market in the country. The central bank in its order termed as "illegal tender" all digital currencies and barred all "regulated entities" like banks and non-banking entities from providing services to any individual or business dealing in virtual currencies.
According to estimates, the move affected as many as 50 lakh Indians.
The Reserve Bank of India sealed the fate of the cryptocurrency market in the country on April 6, 2018. (Photo: Reuters)
2) Facebook fiasco
2018 was a disaster for Facebook. And there can be no argument on that.
The company's image – and its valuation – were sullied by a number of high-profile scandals that rocked the tech giant, and even forced its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, to appear in front of lawmakers across the globe to explain why the company had failed in its job as a self-appointed guardian of the data of hundreds of millions of its users.
In March, the Menlo Park-based social media giant had to face harsh criticism over its alleged role in influencing the 2016 US presidential elections, apparently changing public opinion at the time of the UK's Brexit referendum, even allegations of helping Nitish Kumar's JDU achieve a landslide victory in the 2010 Bihar Assembly polls. LINK
And all this was brought into motion after The New York Times published a scathing report which alleged that Facebook had helped a UK-based voter-profiling firm, Cambridge Analytica, in illegally getting its hands on the personal user data of close to 100 million people.
2018 has been a terrible year for Facebook. (Photo: Reuters)
3) Year of Aadhaar and privacy concerns
2018 also turned out to be the year when Aadhaar finally found its way into the majority of Indian households.
As per UIDAI records, Aadhaar, which was first rolled out in 2009, had in its books the details of 1.22 billion people by November 2018. The government agency has claimed that only 130 million people are still to get an Aadhaar number – however, almost all of them are children, including 60 million below five years of age.
But, as we've seen time and again, where Aadhaar goes, privacy concerns follow.
Through the year, there was heated debate over an individual's right on their personal data, and their privacy in the ever-evolving digital age.
From the Supreme Court to data privacy activists and the government, all had their say in the debate. However, towards the end of the year, we were reminded again as to which direction we're headed in as the government chose to re-notify a notification from 2009 which gave as many as ten government agencies the power to snoop on all personal and private computers in the country.
Where Aadhaar goes, privacy concerns follow. (Photo: PTI)
4) Elon Musk loses the plot
Despite many expecting 2018 to be the year that Elon Musk, and his ventures such as SpaceX and Tesla, scaled new highs, it turned out to be the year when Musk finally appeared to crumble under the burden of his great ego.
In 2018, the billionaire tech genius found himself in many embarrassing social media spats. However, the most notable was a Twitter argument that he started barely hours after the last of the trapped teenagers made it out of an underwater cave in Thailand.
In an exchange of tweets that did not reflect too kindly on the billionaire genius, Musk called Vernon Unsworth – the British diver who master-minded the rescue of the 12 Thai kids – a "Pedo", all because the Thai authorities chose him over a mini-submarine called "Wild Boar" that Musk had created to rescue the kids.
But this wasn't all.
Later in the year, Musk was also pulled up by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for falsely claiming on Twitter that he had secured funding for taking Tesla private.
What followed was an embarrassing show that saw Musk calling the SEC and its office bearers names on social media – only to be reprimanded later with a hefty $20 million fine and an order that forced him to step down as Tesla CEO for 3 years.
2018, the year Elon Musk lost it. (Photo: Reuters)
5) Year of Spectre and Meltdown
At the beginning of the year, we were also made aware of two security flaws – Meltdown and Spectre – that virtually left all computers on the planet exposed to being hacked.
The two chip-level flaws if exploited can give attackers access to the kernel of the OS – a section previously considered completely protected.
Although manufacturers have rushed out with software patches to fix the problem, as is the case with chip-level vulnerabilities, it is only a matter of time before hackers find a way to bypass the new security measures.
Also read: Why China's 'social credit system' is a front for Xi Jinping creating the ultimate surveillance state