The year in new media


29 Dec 2010

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We take a look back at the biggest news in new media for 2010.

Google Street View

Google Street View finally launched in Ireland in 2010, letting people explore the country from the ground, taking a panoramic view of their surroundings.

This was not the only news for Street View, as the service hit much controversy worldwide. During the Google Street Cars’ treks across the world to gather location data, it accidentally collected unencrypted personal data over Wi-Fi, infringing on the privacy of internet users worldwide.

Countries such as Spain and those in the UK investigated the matter, and the Irish Data Protection Commissioner told Google to delete the personal data it had collected.

But it was not only the unintentional infringement of privacy that caused Street View controversy. In Germany, users were allowed to blur their properties on the service if they did not want it to be featured.

It’s always interesting to see how new technology and issues like privacy mix, and Google Street View provides a unique case study on the global reaction to geolocational advances.

Facebook

Facebook’s been a very busy social network this year.

Early in 2010, it faced some controversy over comments that founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg made stating that privacy was dead and no longer a social norm. And this was after a bug affected the site, causing users’ chat messages to be made viewable by manipulating the “preview my profile” feature. Oh dear.

It has gotten a lot more careful about the issue,simplifying the privacy settings shortly after these comments.

Facebook introduced a lot of new features, most notably, Facebook Places, a service which lets users check into a location to see if friends were around. Of course, this, too, was hit with privacy issues. Ireland still has yet to gain access to the service, despite Facebook seemingly accidentally giving access to it for a short time in December.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg found some more mainstream recognition, thanks to the release of David Fincher’s The Social Network. The movie didn’t exactly show him in a positive light, portraying him as a cold, insensitive young man who walked all over his closest friends in order to gain infamy.

Zuckerberg’s reaction wasn’t positive – he pointed out that, while the movie depicted his motivations for developing Facebook as simply a way of getting back at a girl who dumped him, in actuality, he has been with the same woman since before creating the site. Though the filmmakers apparently got his fashion sense spot on.

Regardless, the movie received critical acclaim and is set to earn a few Oscar nominations in 2011. And the movie hasn’t dented Facebook’s nor Zuckerberg’s reputation.Facebook reached half a billion members this year – and this figure is still rising. And Zuckerberg himself earned Time magazine’s 2010 Person of the Year.

Twitter

Twitter also had quite a busy 2010. The service saw a management shake up after CEO Ev Williams stepped down. Williams still remains in the company in product strategy, with Dick Costolo taking the top role.

This year, Twitter managed to surpass20 billion tweets in August, and the number has surely grown exponentially since then.

It also managed to raise $200m, raising its value to a whopping $3.7bn.

We could be seeing some interesting Irish developments in Twitter next year, as rumour has it, the microblogging site may be lookingfor a European HQ on our shores.

Record Labels vs UPC

A landmark court case took place this year, where record labels failed to get internet provider UPC to implement a “three-strike-rule,” where it would have been legally obliged to cut access to users who illegally downloaded files three times.

Justice Peter Charleton said that, while the record industry’s revenues were being devastated by illegal downloading, the court could not grant an injunction against UPC because Ireland does not have the laws in place to prevent illegal downloading.

Previously, Eircom agreed to put this rule in place, but UPC did not, stating that while it did not condone piracy, it was not liable for content transmitted over its cables, as it was simply a “mere conduit” for information.

UPC later re-enforced itsposition later in the year, stating ISPs should not be “judge, jury and executioner” for copyright infringement.

Founders

Ireland played host to one of the biggest internet conferences this year – the Dublin Web Summit.

The summit brought top tech minds, such as Skype founder Niklas Zennstrom, Bebo founder Michael Birch and Twitter founder Jack Dorsey.

Siliconrepublic’s John Kennedy got the chance to interviewYouTube founder Chad Hurley, who talked about the humble beginnings of the video site.

“We were in the right place at the right time in terms of people having the devices to create these videos. And having the connections to upload and view them, as well. That all came together around the time we created the site,” he said.

Running along side the Dublin Web Summit wasFounders, where tech figures, political leaders and top members of finance gathered for a discussion on philanthropy, entrepreneurship and investment.

It was quite uplifting to see such an impressive line up gather in Dublin and take a look at what we have to offer, especially during such troubling times.

WikiLeaks

One of the biggest news stories of the year had to be WikiLeaks, the whistle-blowing website that had everyone talking.

Its recent leak of cables attracted the most attention, gradually leaking confidential diplomatic information worldwide. Even Ireland was mentioned in the leaks, with claims thatGerry Adams was an IRA leader and had prior knowledge of the Northern Bank raid, along with documents saying how theVatican was more concerned over its diplomatic sovereignty as opposed to helping the Murphy Commission.

However, the story of WikiLeaks has become a multifaceted affair, stretching beyond the leaks themselves and focusing on editor-in-chief and WikiLeaks poster boy, Julian Assange, along with the acts of some of those supporting the leaks.

Assange has taken centre stage, thanks to his arrest in the UK for sexual assault charges made against him. His recent bail hearing drew a huge amount of attention and even caused a UK judge to lay down guidance on how journalists can gain permission to tweet high-profile events in court.

The site gained a large amount of followers and when sites such as Amazon, PayPal and Mastercard started refusing services to the whistle blower, and a loose hacktivist group, Anonymous, undertook DDoS attacks on some of these sites in protest. MasterCard andVisa‘s homepages went down, along with PayPal’s blog and the site of the Dutch prosecutors challenging Assange.

And that’s just scratching the surface. From a tech perspective, the implications of all these events paint an interesting picture for the future of journalism and the conflict of confidentiality versus freedom on the internet.

Considering how many hundreds of times WikiLeaks has been mirrored online, it’s impossible for the US government to completely censor the leaks. And even if Assange is found guilty of sexual assault, he is only one part of WikiLeaks, so it’s unlikely that the leaks will stop there.

With the ongoing debates of the morality of leaking such confidential information and content continually being released from the site, 2010 surely won’t be the last we hear about WikiLeaks.