Tech Trends That Need to Die in 2018
Throw these buzzwords, gimmicks, and trends deep into the abyss.
By Rob Marvin
In 2017, the tech industry was once again full of bizarre tech fads and frustratingly obtuse trends in need of a good culling in the new year.
Full disclosure: tech publications love putting tired trends on the chopping block. It’s cathartic after a year of hearing the same buzzwords over and over again. We’ve written this story for several years now, though unfortunately some of the ghosts from lists past still haunt our current tech landscape.
This year, the Internet of Things is still terribly insecure and full of useless “smart” devices. Online harassment is rife and worse than ever, with trolls gaining ground in the perpetual war for the internet. Oh, and plenty of our staffers still stand ready and willing to die on the “smartphones should have headphone jacks” hill. Sorry, Apple (we’re not sorry).
Plenty of tech did actually die this year, and we expect more to follow suit in 2018. But tech trends tend to defy conventional logic, so we’ll probably be back here next year yelling to the heavens about a bunch of the same stuff. For now, here are the trends we’ve loaded into our cannon to launch into the endless void.
Unnecessary Smart Devices
Plenty of smart home devices are good and useful. Many more have no earthly reason to be “smart.” Their needless Wi-Fi connectivity remains a massive security vulnerability and makes them easy targets for malware and botnets like Mirai. What can go wrong with connecting everything to the internet? As our Software and Security Analyst Max Eddy wrote in his deep dive on the Internet of Shit earlier this year: a whole lot of things.
Passwords suck! Security professionals have been shouting this from the rooftops for years (and they’ve been included on this list more than once). Yet this year we still saw a rash of terrible passwords and one of the worst data breaches in history — Equifax leaked the personal data of the entire US adult population — all because “admin” was used as the login and password for an administrator account in Argentina. Maybe with two-factor authentication (2FA) and biometric security such as fingerprint scanning, Windows Hello, and Face ID gaining popularity, 2018 will be the year passwords finally, mercifully, die.
Everything Is a Social Network
We don’t need more social networks. Our software analysts get pitched endless niche social networks and dubiously useful apps with bolted-on social networks. Some, like Mastodon, are actually pretty great, but the vast majority are not. There are even apps claiming to be “safe havens” for users from a toxic online environment, but isn’t it more important for the social apps where people already spend their time — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit — to devote far more manpower toward implementing more safeguards to maybe, finally, do something about abuse?
On that note, we unfortunately need to bring up one of our repeat visitors: online harassment. The trolls are everywhere, emboldened by combative rhetoric and platforms that have done little to hit back. Harassment is now a feature of online life not a bug. There’s no easy answer for preventing online harassment, but removing verified Twitter badges from white nationalists is a good start.
AI and Machine Learning Everything
One especially overused crop of buzzwords that can be hurled directly into the sun is the trio of “AI, machine learning, and deep learning.” Every new intelligent app this year claims to be an “AI-backed product,” but using machine learning and deep-learning models to analyze massive data sets is how software has gotten smarter. AI has become an intelligence layer within modern software platforms, so startups: please stop marketing yourselves as “AI-infused X, Y, and Z.” We get it.
Blockchain is a groundbreaking technology that can redefine how online applications and the internet as a whole function in a decentralized, immutable way. The term “blockchain,” however, has become the tagline du jour next to AI and machine learning for every startup and tech giant angling to get in on the craze. Blockchain can serve as the foundation for a new generation of apps and services. It’s the beginning of something, not an end goal. The buzzword must die so the technology can thrive.
Sharing Without Verifying
We were reticent to put “Fake News” on this list yet again (even though we totally could’ve). While fake news will probably continue to be a problem within our online bubbles and echo chambers, we can all help slow its spread. Before you click Share or Retweet on that next viral article, maybe read until the end. Check the source. Verify whether other reputable outlets have corroborated the report. The onus is on all of us to stem the spread of false reporting that leads to greater divides and misunderstandings in our already polarized web landscape.
Every year there are dumb Silicon Valley startups proclaiming they’ve invented something revolutionary, when in fact the technology has existed for decades or more. This year had some spectacular face-palms. Bodega tried to disrupt local mom-and-pop convenience stores, and its startup bro co-founders were swiftly panned by the internet. Lyft announced Lyft Shuttle, which is basically…a bus. They invented a bus. Then of course there was Juicero, the infamous bougie “cold-pressed juicing system” that charged $700 to press juice out of pre-packaged extracts that, as it turned out, could be easily be pressed by hand. In 2018, maybe venture capital firms should focus on funding compelling products, not charismatic sales pitches hocking doomed, out-of-touch ideas.
Phones Without Headphone Jacks
We still think smartphones should have headphone jacks. AirPods… look dumb. We’re sorry but they do. Samsung has continued to make waterproof devices that have headphone jacks, though the Galaxy S9 may finally ditch the venerable port. Google also jumped on the wireless bandwagon with the Pixel 2. We know we’re fighting a battle that is already lost, but many at PCMag will remain headphone jack Stans, now and forever.
There was once a time when telemarketer scam calls were relegated only to landlines. Those blissful days are long gone. We’re living in a robocall nightmare where no matter how many numbers you block, the calls keep on coming. However, the end may be in sight. While the FCC is full-steam ahead in its plans to gut net neutrality, at least the agency had the decency to adopt new rules to help block illegal robocalls.
I get it. VR headsets are a thing right now, and content providers are trying to cash in on the fad. But 360° cameras need to die a quick, painless death. The market is flooded with them, and despite almost all boasting 4K video quality, those pixels, when stretched out in a sphere, look pretty poor. Hardcore gamers will keep using headsets for immersive experiences, but the rest of us will go back to watching TV on, well, a TV.
There are some exceptions — models like the Rylo and GoPro Fusion, which promise to use 360-degree capture as a more compelling way to capture and produce traditional 16:9 video, with enhanced stabilization and smooth digital pans to transition between parts of a scene. But if your camera’s only trick is recording everything around it so viewers can mouse around a sphere on Facebook or YouTube, be aware that it’s a pretty tired trick at this point. –Jim Fisher
The End of the Third-Party Doctrine
The current interpretation of the Fourth Amendment holds that the government can take information without a warrant that people do not have a “reasonable expectation of privacy” over. Hence, a cop can read a postcard but needs a warrant to open your mail. The Third-Party Doctrine says that you have no reasonable expectation of privacy when a third party has access to your information — such as telephone records. This argument is being used to back up the warrantless wiretapping operations. It needs to go. –Max Eddy
Zero Sum Security
There’s an ongoing argument that unless you are using exactly the correct products in exactly the right way, you are leaving yourself “wide open” to attack. This is untrue, and only serves to alienate unfamiliar new users who just want to be safe. The industry must stop demonizing trade-offs and instead focus on bringing more, easier-to-use products to market. Additionally, enthusiasts need to accept that there is no single magic bullet for protection, and that all security measures are, at best, additional hurdles for would-be spies and attackers to clear. –Max Eddy
Video Game Loot Crates
The hip new way for video game publishers to make money is to turn their games into casinos. Want that new character or costume? Spend money on “loot crates” filled with randomized rewards! If you didn’t get what you wanted, spend more money on more crates! Publishers say loot crates are necessary to pay for rising development costs but that doesn’t make them feel any less exploitative. -Pete Haas
Pivoting to Video
It’s the hottest tech trend sweeping the media this year. Mic, Vocativ, Mashable, MTV News, Fox Sports, Vice, and others have all laid off staff to chase video ad dollars over the past year or so. But putting all your eggs into Facebook and Google’s baskets comes with significant risk and plenty of hidden costs. Video is a core part of how online users consume media, but it’s not the end-all, be-all. Building an online audience while maintaining a viable digital business model is a complicated proposition that all media companies are grappling with to one degree or another. The answer isn’t simple, nor is it easy, but blindly pivoting to video isn’t a quick fix for a long-term problem.
Read more: “In Memoriam: The Tech That Died in 2017”
Originally published at www.pcmag.com.