At Harvard we stay up to date with the latest news and trends shaping the tech world by rounding up the top stories each week. We’ve recapped our favourite stories from the last few weeks to create March’s news round-up.
Twitter is diversifying and evolving what conversation means on its app. This past month it announced that it will be introducing a new design which allows users to more easily capture photos, videos and live streams to post on the platform. Users just need to swipe left to access their cameras, then use hashtags, location stamps and the like, all of which can be posted straight onto their timeline. This will likely make conversations more real-time (and visual of course), while also potentially making the platform more attractive to a younger, Snapchat-loving audience.
Zuckerberg points to “privacy-focused” future for social networking
“I believe the future of communication will increasingly shift to private, encrypted services where people can be confident what they say to each other stays secure and their messages and content won’t stick around forever. This is the future I hope we will help bring about.” So said Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in a 3,000-word blogpost published this week that outlined his “privacy-focused vision” for the future of social networking. It’s a big shift in Facebook’s focus and, like everything that Zuckerberg says, has caused a lot of debate within the tech and media worlds (where what Facebook does has considerable implications). The move from digital town squares to digital living rooms, as Zuckerberg describes it, has been going on for a while – the rise of WhatsApp, Snapchat and other “dark social” trends are proof of that. What’s interesting here is that Zuckerberg isn’t suggesting changing the public features of the “blue app” (as the main Facebook app is known internally) or Instagram, but rather that he wants to give equal prominence to WhatsApp and Messenger as his privacy-by-default platforms. As he told Wired, “The thinking is that there needs to be two types of platforms in the world” – public platforms and private ones. This suggests we’ll see a lot more product innovation and investment in WhatsApp and Messenger in the months and years ahead to capitalise on the trend Zuckerberg has put his finger on.
Google takes on the gaming industry
The gaming industry was worth $138bn at the end of 2018, and Google has decided that it wants a piece of it. During March it announced its plans for a game-streaming service, called Stadia – based on the idea that “the future of gaming is not a box, it’s a place”, like a stadium. The cloud-based service will allow users to leave expensive console systems in the past and be able to launch Stadia on laptops, phones, desktops, tablets and TVs, making life a lot easier for gamers.
EU backs controversial copyright law
After GDPR last year, tech regulation is firmly in the spotlight of EU lawmakers. During March the EU passed Article 13, holding tech companies responsible for material posted without copyright permission. (Don’t worry, GIFs and memes will still be allowed.) Another set of regulations, called Article 11, were also passed, stating that search engines and news aggregator platforms need to pay to use links from news websites. Both sets of regulations demonstrate again that the EU is making the most active efforts of any jurisdiction to curb the freedom of the tech sector. Whether these rules help encourage competition, or simply reinforce the incumbents’ advantage, remains to be seen.
Apple enters banking
Apple held another product launch event this past month, but to quite mixed reviews. A significant portion of the event was focused on the services it will now provide, including Apple News+, a subscription service giving access to 300+ magazines; Apple Arcade, a gaming service building off of its most popular section in the App Store; and finishing with a grand finale of Apple TV+, its rival to Netflix and Amazon Prime. However, the most significant part of the event was probably Apple’s entrance into banking with its new Apple Card. Made out of titanium with no numbers, just the name of the card owner, it fits in with the sleek design of other Apple products. The financial services sector has worried about Apple entering its market for a while – now it’s finally happening.
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