In 2010, when the decade began, the iPhone 4 was months away from being a reality, Android was still shaping up its 2.0 version, Facebook and Twitter was years away from being weaponised for politics and big data was yet to make its mark.
As the decade slips away, we take a look beyond devices at some of the major technological advances that reshaped life in the second decade of the 21st century.
At the cusp of the last decade, Facebook and Twitter were slowly emerging as a place that goes far beyond just a place where you put up random quotes or shared pictures of birthdays and other functions. Photo sharing site Instagram was not yet there, nor was Snapchat.
Moreover, especially in India, smartphones were yet to make a mark and for most of us, Google chat, with its accessibility was the place to have conversations with friends and family.
Though the Obama campaign had pioneered the use of social media sites in political campaigning, the political discussion was still in its infancy on these platforms.
This decade changed all that. Facebook and Twitter have both been blamed and praised for aiding revolutions, abetting or altering the course of elections worldwide and of using and selling multiple data sets of users, often willingly and even unwillingly to big tech and so on.
The misuse of these huge data sets, the manner in which these platforms acted or did not act on the spread of false news and misinformation on the platforms, whether they need to be regulated by the governments were issues that many of these companies and authorities are grappling with.
As the new decade comes closer, it will be interesting to see what lies ahead for social media sites.
The rise of WhatsApp
Though it may roughly come under the social media category, in sheer terms of scale, WhatsApp was the messaging app of the decade.
Starting out as just another messaging platform, it has moved on to offer users the ability to send audio and video files and make voice and video calls. Thanks to multiple family groups, it gave Indians an opportunity to be wished good morning and good night with multiple messages and emojis on a daily basis. Backed by rock bottom data rates and a user-friendly interface, Whatsapp grew by leaps and bounds, especially in India.
It was acquired by Facebook in February 2014 for approximately $19.3 billion and has been the world’s most popular messaging application by 2015, with more than 2 billion users worldwide.
Since it is encrypted, communication on Whatsapp is more secure than that in regular apps. However, Whatsapp’s propensity to be used as a tool to spread misinformation and false news has been a cause of concern, forcing the Government in India to restrict forwarded messages on the platform a few years back.
In the next decade, it will be interesting to see how it evolves, even as data speed grows.
Will Whatsapp move towards video, will it become more personalised, will it be made chargeable again, will it stay secure for communication are questions that users and developers alike will grapple with.
Delivery at a swipe
In 2010, online delivery of stuff was a novelty and not the norm. Getting food ordered in meant calling up restaurants, picking up menu lists from flyers and guiding the delivery guy to your house.
Now, all you do is tap an app, and everything from khichdi to pasta is home within an hour. With app-based cab services, the daily commute went on to become easy and rather cheap, and Uber became a verb to describe any new idea or startup.
Daily or weekly trips to the nearby grocery store became rather redundant in parts of urban India, thanks to the online grocery stores. As the algorithms take over our lives, it will be interesting to see how the gig economy builds on the successes of the past decade.
The stream flows ahead
Another big change in terms of the entertainment options has been the rise of streaming platforms. Aided by the availability of cheap data, streaming platforms grew manifold over the decade, changing the way many of us consume data.
TV series such as Game Of Thrones and Breaking Bad became global superhits, powered by the option to watch it in HD or 4k anywhere on the planet as the action unfolds. Did we mention that as cable tv became redundant, TV sets saw a sea change over the decade as well. HD arrived and has already been replaced by 4K. TVs are becoming computing devices running on Android and other operating systems, even as displays and sound quality gets better.
Going smart with homes
While video calling has become normal now, the decade also saw the rise of the big boys in tech developing tools that let you control your devices through simple voice commands to Alexa or the Google assistant.
The use cases for these assistants multiplied over the decade and now, they do everything from playing your favourite movie or music to helping you order in food, to switching on electric appliances and hailing a cab.
The road ahead
Decade predictions are always tough to make, especially so in the field of technology and its impact on society. If we were to hazard a guess, we would think that like televisions this decade, it will be cars and homes that will become smarter as 5G technology makes its mark on the world, connecting everything to the internet. As with the new buzzwords of AI and Machine learning, the next set of devices will be focussed on sorting out the small details that have been left out at the moment. Electric cars could become more popular, as driverless cars could potentially take off as well.
Cars are bound to get smarter as well. In the fields of medicine and surgery, more data sets and devices could help in saving lives and changing lives for the better.
One would end this with a note of caution. As the world and devices turn smarter, it will be important to ensure that issues such as data security, mining and prevention of misuse of sensitive information are taken up as priority by all stakeholders, including governments, the tech companies and the people at large as well.