Continuing our look at the stories we covered in 2014 and subsequent developments, we turn to September. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani argued that blocking Internet access to cut down political protest was harming the country’s scientific progress. He also lifted a ban on broadband providers offering fast speeds on fixed lines and cellphone networks, something seen as making it easier for protestors to share video. Rouhani’s cabinet later all opened Facebook pages, though the site remains officially blocked in the country.
A social network billed as an “online country club” launched with a $6,000 joining fee and a $3,000 annual membership fee to keep out the riff-radd. Netropolitan founder James Touchi-Peters said he needed a place to “talk about the finer things in life without backlash.” The site still has a sign-up form, but hasn’t updated its news pages since early October and was referred to in the past tense in a USA Today article where Touchi-Peters said “We assumed wealthy people wanted their own social network. But it turns out, they’re not interested in expanding their social circles. They’re fine the way they are.”
BlackBerry launched a phone with a square screen. The BlackBerry Passport took its name from its dimensions resembling that of the US travel document, with the makers suggesting the screen shape was better for reading documents. Subsequent reviews commonly report that the unlikely format does work well for business users who mainly e-mail and review documents.
Intel announced that Nixie, a mini-drone designed for taking selfies (pictured), was a finalist in its Make It Wearable challenge. Despite our tongue-in-cheek report that the gadget had to be a prank, it seems it’s very much real and went on to win the $500,000 grand prize, somehow beating out a system that could 3D print a prosthetic limb at a cost of less than $1,000.
In October Reddit said investors had offered to give a 10 percent stake in the company to users. It talked about the idea of creating its own Bitcoin-like cryptocurrency, backed by company stock. It’s now emerged the company has hired Ryan Charles of BitPay to act as its “cyptocurrency engineer”; he says Bitcoin technology will become integral to Reddit.
The man nominated as European Commissioner for digital economy and society sparked controversy during the equivalent of a confirmation hearing when he said, in reference to the hacking of iCloud backups, “If someone is dumb enough as a celebrity to take a nude photo of themselves and put it online, they surely can’t expect us to protect them. I mean, stupidity is something you can not – or only partly – save people from.” Despite the incident, Gunther Oerringer took office on 1 November and will likely play a key role in the ongoing legal disputes between the European Union and Google.
Facebook introduced “Safety Check”, a tool that let users in disaster areas automatically report that they are safe, reducing the need to reply to multiple messages from worried friends. The geo-based tool has been activated at least twice since launch, both times during hurricanes in the Philippines.
Hungary’s government proposed a metered tax on internet use, with ISPs charged around 60 US cents for every gigabyte they transfer to or from customers. It led to dramatic protests including some people throwing pieces of old computers at the economy ministry’s door. After first suggesting it would cap the tax to the equivalent of $2.87 per customer each month, the government dropped the plan altogether.