The Most Consequential Technology Stories of 2023, According to HackerNoon Editors

Published on
07-01-2024
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What’s up, folks? HackerNoon editors here. For this week’s Tech Company News Brief, let’s walk through the biggest stories of the year. Hope y’all had a great start to your 2024!

Big Tech Lays Off and Buys Out

There’s no way to sugarcoat it: 2023 has been a rough year for those of us in the non-AI part of the tech industry. Through the past year, tech–both big and small–has been subject to mass layoffs and company closures since the beginning of the year as the industry reeled from the Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank closings. Eventually, the bill also came due for some overhiring during the Pandemic era as certain industries thought they could weather even the biggest storms.


Huge companies like Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Zoom, and Meta reduced their workforce by a significant portion, some in the tens of thousands, while other tech companies had it much worse. Smaller projects, like Jack Dorsey’s p2p payment company, Verse, ceased operations this year, but even some big players, such as former crypto index fund Bitwise, found themselves closing up shop too. According to Layoffs.fyi, 2023 saw a staggering total of 261,847 tech employees laid off in 2023 at the time of this writing. Ouch.


Nevertheless, tech carries on. In fact, this “ trimming fats” strategy seemed to be working for most giants, as collectively the S&P 500 went up almost 24% in 2023, a record high!


This year was a bit quiet on the mergers and acquisitions front, but massive purchases still happened with some epic fumbles along the way. Notably, chipmaker Broadcom’s $69 billion acquisition of VMware went through this year, while on the flip side, Adobe’s planned $20 billion acquisition of Figma fell through just as the year was wrapping up. Perhaps the most publicized and scrutinized merger that closed this year was Microsoft’s big purchase of Activision Blizzard.


The finalized merger went through for close to $69 billion after being approved by the UK’s CMA in October after being blocked earlier in the year. The gaming industry has yet to feel the effects of Microsoft’s purchase, but wheels have already been set into motion as now-former CEO Bobby Kotick and a few of his crew have already announced that they are leaving the company in the new year. Tech journalists and gaming enthusiasts have been weary of Microsoft's deal since its announcement in early 2022, as it seems like the industry is only getting sectioned off to a further degree the more that these mergers go on. We’ll see how Sony responds in the new year.


– Adrian Morales, Editor, Consumer Tech and Gaming @ HackerNoon



EU Attempts to Have a Handle on AI

Most industries, microcosms in many ways of human civilization, are subject to trends—ebbs and flows if you will. These trends affect the direction of said industries to varying degrees. Some cause an uproar and fade away as abruptly as they sprung up. Others change the industries to such a degree that we wonder how we got by prior.


In the Tech Industry, we’ve witnessed many trends through time. Do you remember what life was like before the internet? How on earth did we get by?

PS: HackerNoon made a fun and insightful documentary about the internet’s evolution and looming future. It’s available on demand!


Who can forget the crazy hype of the metaverse and its promise of a new digital reality? Zuckerberg, with his much lighter wallet, definitely can’t.


In 2023, however, Artificial Intelligence reigned supreme. This seemingly novel concept found new life on the back of ChatGPT’s success. So much so that businesses of every scale have moved mountains to build AI tools or, at the very least, integrate them into their workflows and service offerings.


As with any revolution, the year of AI came with reports, speculations, and even conspiracy theories regarding generative AI's capabilities, potential, shortcomings, and risks.


However, one thing was consistent amidst all the noise, AI is a powerful tool poised to become even more powerful with the potential to profoundly alter work and lives, and, in extreme scenarios, cause significant harm if left unchecked. Within the tech bubble, this tension became known as that between the AI accelerationist vs. AI-safetyist, a microcosm of which we saw unfold during the whole OpenAI CEO board coup saga.It became clear soon enough that we needed to develop AI responsibly, allowing us to amplify its benefits while guarding against potential harmful shortcomings.


This is why, I believe the Provisional AI Act established by the EU is one of the most important stories of 2023. It represents a framework for safe AI development as we navigate an uncertain but exciting future.


At the tail end of a 3-day marathon negotiation, the European parliament and council leadership reached a ‘provisional,’ milestone agreement on harmonized rules governing the use of artificial intelligence.


The AI Act, which focuses on eight key elements, including the “Classification of AI systems as high-risk and prohibited AI practices,” will not apply to areas outside  EU law and AI systems being used exclusively for military or defense purposes.


Non-compliance with the AI Act, once it’s fully established, attracts fines anywhere between £7.5 million, or 1.5% of global turnover, and £35 million, or 7% of global turnover.


I look forward to understanding these laws as they inevitably evolve and echo across other governments. In that regard, 2024 will be an exciting year.


– Asher Umerie, Editor, World News & Scifi @ HackerNoon



Changpeng Zhao Leaves Binance

I am a crypto skeptic. I really don’t think there’s any other way to put it, which is ironic, given that I learned about Bitcoin way, way earlier than most of the people I knew. In fact, I might have played a role in introducing Bitcoin to as many of my friends as I could more than a decade ago.


But here’s the thing: I never viewed Bitcoin more than what it actually was at the time (we’re talking around the 2010s): An anonymous medium to trade for goods and services on the deep web. As time passed, and as cryptocurrencies became more popular, I viewed Bitcoin with interest, but nothing more.


Which brings us to today: the conversation surrounding cryptocurrency is EVERYwhere, and I have read and edited enough articles (both at HackerNoon and beyond) to have misgivings about cryptocurrencies as both a store of value and a medium of exchange.


I won’t bore you with the details, but I can confidently say that there is enough evidence out there to strengthen my belief that cryptocurrencies are a highly volatile medium of speculation, and are only valuable because the party that is selling a cryptocurrency and the party that is buying it say so. Beyond that exchange, cryptocurrencies really offer nothing of value nor can they be used (or touted as!) some sort of revolutionary digital currency (anyone who tells you otherwise is probably not a part of the traditional banking system).


Anyway, the FTX debacle and the recent exit of Changpeng “CZ” Zhao from Binance are just the latest in a string of what I can best describe as a series of events that strengthen my belief that crypto is simply a money-making endeavor, and nothing more. And it’s hopelessly bad at it.


CZ’s exit from Binance must particularly sting his followers and fans, but may have brought some sort of smile to rival Sam Bankman-Fried’s face, whose unceremonious exit (and ongoing trial?) from FTX was caused by the Binance co-founder’s actions. While in FTX’s case SBF allegedly defrauded investors, Binance’s charges involve money laundering and curtailing government oversight/regulations to make it possible for bad actors to finance illicit activity. Whether CZ will actually end up in jail is anyone’s guess, but it’s not completely out of the realm of possibility.


That said, I don’t think cryptocurrencies are going to fade away. In fact, there is enough interest in cryptocurrencies right now (bitcoin is at a 21 month high!) that they will continue to make a select few very, very rich while remaining a some sort of a get-rich-quick dream for the masses (which is kinda interesting, because the same people that believe in crypto’s ability to make them rich are likely the same people who would never put their faith in a lottery ticket or a casino).


Remember, folks. The house always wins.

– Sheharyar Khan, Editor, Business Tech @ HackerNoon



That Whole Twitter Saga

Although Elon Musk bought Twitter last year in 2022, the drama has spilled over into 2023 and might continue into 2024.


His initial acquisition of the company was messy to begin with, and that only set the tone for the future.


So far, he’s been accused of delaying access to websites he doesn’t like,unjustly banning journalists, and posting antisemitic tweets.


And maybe it’s that last incident that has caused the most damage to Twitter.


In November 2023, after Musk’s aforementioned antisemitic tweets, top advertisers announced they were halting their ad campaigns on the social media platform.


Apple, Disney, Netflix, and Paramount were just some of the companies that pulled their ads.


To make matters worse, Elon publicly told these companies, and all others who stopped advertising on Twitter, to “Go fuck yourself.” He later would go on to specifically single out Disney CEO Bob Iger.


Now, I’m not the richest man alive, but I’m positive that is not a great way to bring the companies back into the fold.


But that shows what I know because Netflix resumed their ads a month later.


That damage may have already been done, however. The New York Times estimates that Twitter could lose over $70 million.


This may not seem too damaging for a billion-dollar company, but what does look troubling is Twitter’s value.


Elon Musk bought it for $44 billion, and now, a year later, it’s estimated that its value is around $19 billion, and by some even more recent estimate, $12 billion..


Maybe Musk and his team have the hustle and resolve to turn the ship around, but if his Twitter account is anything to go by, it seems that the CEO can’t stop putting his foot in his mouth. And the longer it’s in there, the more money comes out.


P.S. And I didn’t even mention the fact that he changed its name from Twitter to X. Which I, and everyone else on the planet, still has no idea why he did so.


– Jose Hernandez, Editor General Tech, Gaming, and Entertainment @ HackerNoon


The Tech Company Brief is a weekly newsletter written by HackerNoon editors to help you dissect the last week in tech news! Subscribe here for the full scoop delivered straight to your inbox: https://hackernoon.com/tech-company-brief

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