The metaverse, Facebook’s whistleblower, El Salvador adopts bitcoin as legal tender, the race to space and Amazon’s complicated year.
With the new year nearly upon us, it’s once again the time to take a look back at our favourite trends of the year. Welcome to Hashtag Trending, I’m your host, Samira Balsara, and in part one of this two-episode special, we’ll be listing the top ten tech trends that emerged in 2021.
Metaverse and Facebook rename
Undoubtedly one of the biggest announcements in the social media world this year was Facebook’s name change to Meta. At the end of October Facebook announced at its augmented virtual reality conference, Facebook Connect, that it would now be called Meta. The new name is supposed to reflect the companies latest project, the metaverse. At the same conference CEO Mark Zuckerberg detailed everything there is to know about the metaverse, from 3D avatars to enhance virtual connection as well as exercise, sports and work in the metaverse. Facebook’s or Meta’s announcement came shortly after Facebook faced heavy scrutiny after reports about how its apps negatively impact the mental health of teens surfaced.
2. Facebook whistleblower
It was pretty impossible for Facebook to stay out of the limelight in 2021. This social media company faced a major crisis after whistleblower Frances Haugen, a former data scientist at Facebook, revealed Facebook’s secrets. One revelation included how Facebook is harmful to children and teens. Haugen leaked a study from the company which showed that 13.5 per cent of teen girls in the U.K. said their suicidal thoughts became more frequent after starting to use Instagram. Another revealed that 32 per cent of teen girls said Instagram has made them feel worse about their bodies. Haugen testified before a Senate committee in early October and discussed Facebook’s issues with misinformation, and how it amplifies hate and political unrest. While the metaverse announcement in late October may have been enough to distract the general public from these revelations, Facebook is still facing major damages to its reputation.
3. El Salvador adopts bitcoin as legal tender
2021 was memorable for more than just the COVID-19 pandemic as cryptocurrency use took off worldwide. Companies like Tesla immersed themselves into bitcoin, and even countries as a whole made cryptocurrency the main focus. In September El Salvador officially adopted bitcoin as legal tender, making cryptocurrency an accepted means of exchange for goods and services. El Salvador’s president, who encouraged the adoption said the move would help citizens save $400 million a year on commissions for remittances while giving access to financial services to those with no bank account. But the adoption of Bitcoin as legal tender didn’t come without its problems. When Salvadorans attempted to download Chivo Digital Wallet, which the government had promoted, saying it would provide $30 of bitcoin per person, the app was not found in app stores. The president tweeted that the government had temporarily unplugged it, in order to connect more servers to deal with demand but also blamed Apple Inc, Google and Huawei’s app download platforms for the delay.
4. Billionaire Race to Space
A new mission for some of the richest in the world is conquering the journey to outer space. This year billionaires such as Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk launched rockets into space and focused on their own space companies. In July Bezos blasted off in his Blue Origin spacecraft. In the same month, Richard Branson also headed to space in his Virgin Galactic VSS Unity spaceplane. And Musk’s company SpaceX made history this year with the first all-civilian flight to space. While space seems to be the next big thing for the billionaires, there have been mixed reactions to these space trips. Some think it’s the future but many have criticized these flights labelling them as vanity projects as Bezos for example spends a huge amount of money on space trips when there is still lots of work to be done on Earth. A recent report compared the carbon footprint of a short space joyride to a lifetime’s worth of emissions for the world’s poorest. The report described how damaging these trips to space can be to the environment. To top it all off, the report also noted that even without space flights, wealthy individuals such as Bezos and Branson still produce more carbon pollution in a year than the average individual does in a lifetime.
5. Amazon’s complicated year
Facebook isn’t the only company that had a messy year. In 2021 e-commerce giant Amazon made several headlines, from the way the company treats their employees, to Amazon’s review system and even a change in leadership. This year, founder of Amazon Jeff Bezos stepped down as CEO, 27 years since he started the company. He handed over the reins to longtime deputy Andy Jassy as Bezos went on to pursue other projects, such as his space exploration company, Blue Origin. In addition, Amazon was also in the news often due to revelations about how the company treats its employees. Just recently six Amazon warehouse workers died after working in the warehouse without phones when a Tornado hit in Illinois. This prompted Amazon to pause plans to reinstate a ban on warehouse workers having phones. And in the summer Amazon workers in North America fought to unionize, even with the company making it a difficult process. And throughout the year reports about how overworked employees are and the poor working conditions at the warehouses in general surfaced.
And that was part one of our trending stories for 2021. Thank you for listening to Hashtag Trending this year. Add us to your Alexa Flash Briefing or your Google Home daily briefing. Make sure to sign up for our Daily IT Wire Newsletter to get all the news that matters directly in your inbox every day. Have a happy new year!