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For tech, 2018 was the first of many very bad years to come

Posted by / December 17, 2018

When it reemerged after the early 2000s dotcom bubble, the tech industry was a force to be reckoned with. Company after company emerged that was forging new market niches or disrupting old ones. Mark Zuckerberg, Mark Benioff, and Travis Kalanick became household names among the tech savvy. Those in the know used Facebook regularly, shopped almost exclusively on Amazon, and took Ubers around whatever city they lived in. This was the growth period.

Before too long, the gospel of tech spread beyond the young, the hip, and the knowledgable. Grandmas got Facebook, Amazon became the default verb for shopping online, and Ubers spread to nearly every city and town in the country. This was 2010-2016, and even as the companies were growing and spreading, the cracks were beginning to appear.

By 2017, the narrative was changing. Wired didn’t want to publish positive stories about tech anymore, not only because they’d been burned after endorsing companies that turned out to be duds or bosses that turned out to be jerks, but because their readership wasn’t into that kind of story anymore. They wanted to read negative stories.

And now there’s 2018. The narrative has fully shifted away from the “heroic tech companies” narrative. They are now, officially, villains. Gizmodo published the biggest tech lies of 2018, replete with a cover photo of Zuckerberg sitting in front of Congress (which was their number one biggest tech lie of the year).

Some are trying to rescue the “heroic tech” narrative. One CNN writer, for example, suggested that we stop calling Facebook a tech company because they’re simply too evil. Leave the tech title for those doing good work, like inventing self-driving cars. But how long until those cars start killing people, and they’re not longer tech companies?

For an even more damning look at the year, check out Recode’s recap of tech’s 2018 in 14 charts. The next few years will be bad for tech. Not because of anything tech does, even, but because the narrative has changed and it will be some time before it shifts again.

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