It’s unlikely that 2018 will be remembered with much affection, but last year was still a remarkable one from a technology perspective. From new ways of building websites to evolving social media habits, it provided some important lessons for people planning advertising budgets and engagement strategies for 2019…
It would be inaccurate to describe 2018 as the year of streaming media since that label could just as easily have been applied to 2017 and even 2016. Subscriptions to streaming media services in the UK surpassed conventional cable and satellite subscriptions for the first time, as Sky and Virgin continue to struggle against cut-price streaming rivals. An Amazon Fire TV stick with Alexa voice control now costs less than £40, which compares favourably to the long-term contracts and high monthly bills of traditional media providers. It’s perhaps unsurprising that Sky is developing a live TV service which is distributed online, rather than via a satellite dish.
Given the hysterical claims being made about bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies a year ago, their fall from grace seems all the more startling. After peaking in the New Year, most cryptos are now trading for a tenth of their January 2018 value against fiat currencies like the dollar. The 2017 Bitcoin Cash fork split twice more last year to create a dysfunctional family of competing currencies, while Ripple is currently trading for pennies. Some companies who accepted crypto payments have now reversed their decisions, perhaps alarmed by the $4bn wiped off Ethereum’s value overnight when a false rumour suggested its founder had died.
For WordPress users, 2018 will be remembered as the year of Gutenberg. This radical change saw an all-new modular editing tool replace templates with blocks. Traditionalists are horrified at Gutenberg’s less intuitive and multimedia-focused nature, though blocks improve consistency across different screen sizes while relying less on plugins. Gutenberg is the default WordPress editing tool in WordPress 5.0; the classic editor has been relegated to plugin status.
Once again, 2018 wasn’t a good year for cybersecurity. The first week of December saw Quora and Marriott involved in high-profile hacking admissions, and the latter admitted 500 million customer records may have been compromised since 2014. In terms of malware, WannaCry and Mirai maintained a strong presence across cyberspace, while vishing scams conducted by phone also became increasingly prevalent.
There has been a marked consumer shift away from social media platforms towards encrypted communications channels like WhatsApp. Fewer people are using social media, and those who do are spending less time on them. Facebook has experienced a particularly pronounced decline in America, with a 15 per cent drop in usage among 12- to 34-year-olds last year. On a brighter note, younger consumers are still migrating to Snapchat, though concerns about bullying and pornography have cast a shadow over its success. At least Instagram’s growth shows no signs of abating.
By the standards of industry regulator ICANN, 2018 was quiet in terms of new domain name launches. The .realestate TLD went on sale on November 26th, and .app went live in the summer after Google paid $25 million for it. Another Google purchase should debut shortly, in the form of .dev. Like the new .page TLD, anyone registering a .dev domain will have to obtain an SSL certificate. Throughout 2018, Google bolstered its support for the universal adoption of HTTPS, as it attempts to provide consumers with a safer online environment.