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 August’s news round-up.
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Twitter tests personalised “unfollow” feature
Any Twitter user will know about its “Who to Follow” feature, which makes recommendations on new people you might like to follow based on your current timeline. Twitter confirmed it ran “an incredibly limited trial” of a new feature – recommending accounts you might want to unfollow. The unfollow suggestions were based on the fact that the user wasn’t engaging much with those accounts any more. It’s another sign that Twitter is trying to make it easier for users to feel in control of their timelines and not get overwhelmed by the Twitter experience.
Ofcom reveals we now spend a day a week online
Media regulator Ofcom released its annual communications report this month and as always it revealed a series of fascinating facts about how we consume media today. The headline finding is that British people now spend a whole day online – a full 24 hours – each week, more than twice as much as in 2011. Other stats that stood out to us include the fact that six in ten of us use next day delivery for online purchases, and we still watch a lot of TV too – an average of three hours 23 minutes per day. Get the report and summary here.
Musk planning to take Tesla private
Elon Musk has had a busy month. Clearly riled by the demands of the stock market – from annoying analyst questions to the attacks of short sellers – he tweeted that he’s planning to take Tesla private. His memo to staff lays out his thinking. What we think is interesting is the bigger point about the relationship between the stock market and innovative tech companies. The demands of investors are often incredibly short term. The stock market expects to see constant growth every three months. Speculative bets and long-term thinking are rarely rewarded. Maybe for tech firms looking to take on the status quo, the appeal of operating privately without the scrutiny of the market will become increasingly attractive.
Uber invests in scooters and bikes
As a privately held company Uber doesn’t have to disclose its financial details. So the fact that it has revealed some figures to the media suggests it’s trying to proactively shape a positive narrative about its future plans. In media interviews Uber’s CEO said the company is diversifying its investments from food deliveries to autonomous vehicles, and now to bikes and scooters. Uber got into bike-sharing with its $100m acquisition of Jump, which has e-bikes in major US cities, including Austin, Chicago, New York City, and San Francisco. Despite negative publicity and increasing government controls in cities like London and New York, Uber generated $2.8bn in revenue last quarter, up 63% from the same period a year ago.
Gartner reveals 2018 hype cycle
Every year Gartner publishes its “Emerging Technologies Hype Cycle”, which aims to plot cutting-edge breakthroughs against the rollercoaster of hype, disappointment and eventual impact. This year’s cycle is dominated by various technologies related to AI and autonomous driving, almost all of which are at the peak of inflated expectations right now. But as The Register points out nine emerging technologies identified in last year’s hype cycle report have vanished – machine learning and drones, for instance, have gone completely.
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