Big­gest tech fails of 2016

Kuwait Times - - TECH­NOL­OGY -

Tech­nol­ogy con­nects, en­ter­tains and in­forms bil­lions of peo­ple world­wide ev­ery day-so when some­thing in­evitably goes wrong, the rip­ple ef­fects are mas­sive. Look­ing back on 2016, here are the big­gest bombs and sna­fus in tech­nol­ogy and dig­i­tal me­dia. They range from Face­book's fake-news plague to Sam­sung's hot (and not in a good way) smart­phone, and from Ya­hoo's ridicu­lously enor­mous data breaches to Twit­ter's bat­tle with an­ti­so­cial be­hav­ior.

Face­book and the fake-news fi­asco

Was an FBI agent in­ves­ti­gat­ing Hil­lary Clin­ton's Wik­iLeaks emails in­volved in a mur­der­sui­cide? Nope. Nei­ther was Fox News plan­ning to fire Megyn Kelly for back­ing Clin­ton nor did Tay­lor Swift say she voted for Don­ald Trump-just a few of the nu­mer­ous bo­gus ar­ti­cles that rapidly in­fected Face­book and other so­cial net­works. The wave of de­lib­er­ately crafted false­hoods may have af­fected the U.S. pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, de­spite Face­book chief Mark Zucker­berg's in­sis­tence that was a "crazy" idea. Face­book was the whip­ping boy for the up­roar over fake news given its 1.7 bil­lion-plus user base, but other play­ers have been im­pli­cated in­clud­ing Google, which after the elec­tion said it would stop ac­cept­ing ads from fake-news web­sites.

Re­spond­ing to calls for ac­tion, Face­book last week un­veiled a plan to let users fact-check ar­ti­cles posted on the ser­vice in part­ner­ships with ABC News, Snopes.com, Fac­tCheck.org and Poli­ti­Fact. But it re­mains to be seen how well the sys­tem will work to curb the flood of mis­in­for­ma­tion, es­pe­cially in an on­line-ad­ver­tis­ing ecosys­tem where fak­ery has been a prof­itable en­deavor. In a sep­a­rate devel­op­ment, the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee's email servers were hacked by Rus­sian op­er­a­tives who then shared the data dump with Wik­iLeaks in an ef­fort to sway the U.S. elec­tion, ac­cord­ing to Amer­i­can in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials.

Sam­sung's Galaxy Note 7 burns up

In Au­gust, Sam­sung de­buted the Galaxy Note 7 "ph­ablet," aimed at one-up­ping Ap­ple in the high-end smart­phone seg­ment. But the prod­uct lit­er­ally blew up in its face: First the Korean con­sumer-elec­tron­ics gi­ant re­called 2.5 mil­lion Galaxy Note 7s be­cause of a risk they could catch fire or even ex­plode be­cause of a bat­tery flaw. After ship­ping re­place­ment units that had the same is­sue, Sam­sung in Oc­to­ber said it would en­tirely dis­con­tinue the de­vice. The set­back will de­press Sam­sung's prof­its more than $5 bil­lion over the next three quar­ters, and an­a­lysts say the dam­age to its brand could hurt fu­ture sales to the ben­e­fit of ri­vals like Ap­ple and Google.

Ya­hoo's epic user-data hacks

It's hard to fathom how CEO Marissa Mayer and her lieu­tenants failed-for sev­eral years-to de­tect hacks that re­sulted in the theft of data on more than 1 bil­lion user ac­counts. But that's what Ya­hoo is telling users, in­vestors, law en­force­ment agen­cies... and Verizon, which is now reeval­u­at­ing the terms of its $4.8 bil­lion bid for the sag­ging in­ter­net com­pany in the wake of the two un­prece­dent­edly huge se­cu­rity breaches (which Ya­hoo says were per­pe­trated by un­known ac­tors in 2013 and 2014). The telco may end up scrap­ping the en­tire deal or ask­ing for a price cut. Either way, the hacks have al­ready be­come an­other blem­ish on Mayer's legacy at the helm of Ya­hoo.

Twit­ter's hate-speech prob­lem

Trolls, creeps and big­ots are all over the in­ter­net, but Twit­ter's open so­cial ser­vice has been par­tic­u­larly buf­feted by abu­sive com­ments and other bul­ly­ing be­hav­ior. After high-pro­file at­tacks on ac­tress Les­lie Jones, CEO Jack Dorsey ac­knowl­edged that the com­pany needed to take more ag­gres­sive ac­tion to ad­dress the prob­lem. Last month the com­pany in­tro­duced new ways to block and re­port ma­lig­nant users, ad­mit­ting that "we've had some chal­lenges keep­ing up with and curb­ing abu­sive con­duct." Twit­ter at the same time booted sev­eral no­to­ri­ous alt-right users, be­fore re­in­stat­ing the ac­count of white su­prem­a­cist Richard Spencer. For Twit­ter, mak­ing the ser­vice safer is im­por­tant to grow and re­tain its user base, while the nas­tier el­e­ments of the Twit­ter­sphere re­port­edly scared off Dis­ney from mov­ing for­ward on ac­qui­si­tion talks.

Vine gets stran­gled

An­other sign of Twit­ter's woes: The com­pany in Oc­to­ber said it was shut­ting down the sixsec­ond video ser­vice. Vine had at­tracted mil­lions of users and launched the ca­reers of sev­eral in­ter­net-fa­mous cre­ators but Twit­ter could never fig­ure out to turn it into a mon­ey­maker. Twit­ter re­port­edly had been ex­plor­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of sell­ing Vine, ac­quired in 2012, but that didn't hap­pen. In­stead, the com­pany last week said Vine will live on as an app for record­ing six-sec­ond video loops (while the Vine ser­vice will be frozen).

Mode me­dia goes belly-up

With­out warn­ing, Mode Me­dia-a fe­male­fo­cused dig­i­tal publisher worth more than $1 bil­lion a few short years ago-shut its doors in Septem­ber and sent em­ploy­ees pack­ing. The abrupt demise of the Sil­i­con Val­ley-based fash­ion, beauty and life­style me­dia com­pany came after it failed to find a buyer or se­cure ad­di­tional oper­at­ing cap­i­tal (after rais­ing a to­tal of about $225 mil­lion over its life). Mode Me­dia's pass­ing served as a cau­tion­ary tale for dig­i­tal­me­dia up­starts about the dan­gers of un­sus­tain­able ex­pan­sion. The firm, for­merly known as Glam Me­dia, was at one time among the 10 big­gest US in­ter­net me­dia com­pa­nies in terms of audience.

GoPro's failed Hol­ly­wood dream

The maker of mount­able cam­era gear wanted to be­come more than, well, a maker of mount­able cam­eras. It had ambitions of pro­duc­ing dozens of orig­i­nal shows, and GoPro had set up a siz­able me­dia op­er­a­tion staffed with ex­ecs hail­ing from HBO, MTV, Time Inc and else­where. But with de­vice sales down, the com­pany killed the en­tire di­vi­sion last month as part of cut­ting 15 per­cent of its work­force and is shut­ting down of­fices in L.A. and else­where. — Reuters

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