As we bid farewell to 2023, let's take a joyous stroll down the memory lane of the tech world and revel in the fantastic innovations and massive downfalls that made this year truly exceptional. From the dazzling advancements in artificial intelligence to large data breaches and pivotal changes in some of the best-known services, the past twelve months have been a rollercoaster of both positive and negative fascination.
Join us on this journey through 2023, highlighting the key events of each month before saying hello to the upcoming 2024!
Netflix Password Sharing Crackdown
Netflix password sharing has been around since the birth of the biggest streaming service in the world. After all, why should you create your own account if your work buddy can lend you one? Or maybe you were the good samaritan who shared their details with friends and family. On the surface level, this doesn’t seem like a big issue. Sharing is caring, after all.
While sharing is generally a nice thing to do, in the case of subscription-based services, sharing means revenue loss for the company. The more accounts are shared, the less money the service makes. In Netflix's case, according to their own calculations, over 100 million households are sharing accounts. It’s not hard to imagine how much money is lost due to this.
Understanding this, Netflix started to crack down on password sharing practices at the beginning of 2023. Simply put, accounts are now geographically locked to the user's household, meaning that those who do not live with you cannot use the account. Users must set their primary Netflix location and check in periodically to ensure that the account is not traveling all over the country (as would be the case with pre-crackdown sharing). The service itself detects whether or not the user is at home by checking Netflix IP address, device identifiers, and other factors.
If you wish to add someone outside your household to your account, you can do it. For a fee, of course. The extra member fee varies depending on your country, but the fact remains that Netflix password sharing is now fully monetized. The days of giving your account left and right are basically gone.
Despite an outrage within the Netflix community, this move proved to be fruitful. Following the rollout, the subscriber count increased by 9 million, and it is likely that this number will continue to grow. Considering this, it wouldn’t surprise us if other streaming services will start implementing similar practices.
Stolen Twitter Data
Twitter (currently known as X) was always known for its pseudonymous nature. Users on this platform are only known by their nicknames and handles; any information that was used for registration, such as an email address, is not visible to other users. This made Twitter the go-to social network for activists, members of vulnerable groups, or those who long for freedom of expression and privacy protection.
These ideals were shaken up in early 2023 by one terrible discovery. On a certain hacking-focused forum, a user was offering email addresses and phone numbers of over 200 million Twitter users. The data was obtained by exploiting a bug in Twitter’s API, which allowed malicious users to scrape sensitive user data.
Since Twitter is pseudonymous, a simple email leak can cause significant damage. If a person uses their personal email address, their identity is instantly revealed and can be further linked to other online accounts. This, in turn, creates an opportunity for convincing phishing attempts. Finally, with all this information linked, a user can become a victim of doxing (public reveal of personal details). And all of this trouble just from knowing the connection between a Twitter handle and an email address.
Meta Paid Verification
Meta, the company behind social media giants Facebook and Instagram, announced a paid verification subscription model in February 2023 called Meta Verified. Users of the aforementioned services can now upload their IDs and pay a subscription fee for a verification badge. This is a vastly different approach from before the announcement: back in the day, verification badges were given to notable individuals, and there were no subscription-based payments for them on Meta services.
This model is reminiscent of the chaotic Twitter Blue verification subscription, except in Meta’s case, it is more thought out. As opposed to Twitter, users have to provide enough proof of their identity to even get a chance to pay for their verification. This eliminates the troll-ridden fiasco that happened on Twitter.
Unrivaled Growth of ChatGPT
UBS research declared ChatGPT as the "fastest-growing consumer application in history." Having closely followed internet developments for two decades, UBS researchers note the unprecedented speed of ChatGPT's rise. To put it in perspective, it reached over one million users within just five days of its November 2022 launch, outpacing such fastest growing websites like TikTok and Instagram.
It comes as no surprise, considering the seemingly overnight explosion in popularity. Moreso, ChatGPT cemented its part in the tech canon, becoming an irreplaceable tool with almost limitless possibilities. Be it easier work or quick fact check, ChatGPT can do it all.
At the time of this February announcement, ChatGPT was a web application, best utilized on desktop devices. Are things different today? Does ChatGPT have an app for portable devices, such as smartphones? Indeed, it does. The app is available on Android and iOS devices, making it possible to generate an amusing story during your morning commute and infinite other things.
CFTC Against Binance
Binance, the world's largest crypto exchange, and its CEO Changpeng Zhao were served a lawsuit from the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) in March 2023. The regulator claims that Binance was running an "illegal" exchange with a deceptive compliance program. This legal action is part of an unprecedented crackdown on crypto companies that is still going to this day as U.S. authorities intensify efforts to address illegal offerings and ensure compliance with regulations.
According to the CFTC's complaint, Binance allegedly conducted commodity derivatives transactions for U.S. individuals from July 2019, violating U.S. laws. The commission criticized Binance's compliance program as "ineffective," asserting that, under Zhao's direction, the company encouraged employees and customers to bypass compliance controls. This Binance lawsuit is not the last one on this overview.
Pause AI Development for 6 Months
In March 2023, a letter garnered signatures from over 26,000 individuals, including notable technology leaders such as Elon Musk of SpaceX, Tesla, and Twitter, and Steve Wozniak of Apple. The letter urged artificial intelligence companies to add the pause sign in the training of the most advanced AI systems for a minimum of six months. The concerns cited encompassed the potential threats posed by misinformation proliferation and the displacement of human workers by algorithmic systems.
The signatories emphasized the risks associated with pushing the boundaries of AI capabilities beyond the likes of GPT-4, a substantial language model released by OpenAI in the same month. Their apprehensions revolved around the notion that such advanced technology could eventually surpass human cognitive abilities, leading to a loss of control over our societal framework.
The fears regarding the most advanced AI are usually based on the idea that autonomous decision-making paired with superintelligence (an intelligence far beyond the capabilities of humans) may create a system that works against human interests. This would certainly mean the end of the world as we know it.
Canada’s Internet Censorship
Bill C-11, the Online Streaming Act, is a revised iteration of its predecessor, Bill C-10, initially introduced by former Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault. Despite efforts to address some of C-10's shortcomings, Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez leads the charge with C-11, yet the legislation still needs to rectify its fundamental issues.
This new bill extends the regulatory authority of the Broadcasting Act to encompass all online audiovisual content, spanning platforms such as TikTok, YouTube, Spotify, and podcasts. Platforms hosting such content are required under C-11 to contribute financially to officially recognized "CanCon" and ensure its easy discoverability in feeds and search results. Failure to comply with these provisions may result in penalties for the platforms. This is a big step towards internet censorship.
Despite instructing the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to review CanCon definitions, C-11 needs clear directives on including small and digital-first Canadian content creators. This omission creates uncertainty regarding the timeline and adequacy of future support for these creators, casting a shadow over the bill's comprehensive impact.
This bill affects not only the digital creators but also the viewers of such content in Canada. Effectively, this becomes an internet censorship issue. FCPP dubbed it TrudeauNet (after the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau) and recommends using a VPN to get censorship-free internet. Open internet is a right that everyone should have. Hence, we back this recommendation. With Mysterium VPN, you can enjoy the internet without borders.
Balenciaga Pope and Trump’s Wild “Arrest”
Was Pope Francis caught walking around with a fancy Balenciaga puffer jacket, and was Donald Trump running away from his court appearance in New York back in March 2023? No. And no.
This is a short entrance to showcase how realistic AI imagery can be and how it can fool news outlets worldwide. Although there are obvious flaws with the dripped-out Pope, Trump’s images are shockingly well done. We have to admit – we were fooled too.
Rules for Crypto Proposed
In May 2023, a global organization called IOSCO introduced new rules for controlling digital money and markets. This came after problems with the FTX exchange in the previous year made people worried about protecting consumers.
The suggested rules include how to handle conflicts of interest, stop cheating in the market, cooperate with rules across borders, keep digital money safe, manage risks in operations, and treat regular customers fairly. There are 18 planned steps that use well-known protections from regular markets to make sure everyone involved in a digital money deal is treated fairly.
This marked a step toward stronger cryptocurrency regulation, as this market originally was concerned only with compliance with anti-laundering laws.
An Eye-Watering Fine for Meta
In May 2023 Meta got a big fine of $1.3 billion and was told to stop sending information from Facebook users in Europe to the United States. This happened because the social media company broke the rules about protecting data set by the European Union.
Ireland’s Data Protection Commission gave this penalty, and it's one of the most serious in the five years since the European Union made a significant law about data privacy called the General Data Protection Regulation. The regulators said Meta didn't follow a decision from 2020 by the European Union’s highest court. This decision said that when Facebook data goes from Europe to the U.S., it's not well-protected from American spy agencies, thus violating the regulation.
This decision by the European Union shows how government rules are changing how data usually moves freely across borders. Because of data protection rules, laws about national security, and other regulations, companies are now being told to keep data in the country where it's collected instead of letting it go to data centers all over the world.
Binance is in Trouble
In June 2023, the Securities and Exchange Commission (S.E.C.) accused Binance, the biggest cryptocurrency exchange globally, of mishandling customer money and lying to American regulators and investors about how it works.
In a lengthy document of 136 pages, the S.E.C. claimed that Binance mixed billions of dollars from customers and secretly sent them to another independent trading company, Merit Peak Limited. This company was controlled by Binance’s founder, Changpeng Zhao.
The complaint also said Binance tricked investors by not being truthful about how well its systems can find and control sketchy trading. It also said Binance didn’t tell the truth about its efforts to stop U.S. users from trading on its international platform.
Meta Quest 3
The month of June 2023 was also important for all VR enthusiasts. Just before the Quest Gaming Showcase, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg unveiled a new headset in the series – Meta Quest 3. It has better displays and resolution. In fact, it is said to have the highest-resolution display yet. Besides the headset itself, completely redesigned controllers were also unveiled. Finally, the whole thing is 40% thinner than the previous headset, making it probably the smallest VR headset around.
What makes this announcement interesting is the fact that it happened just days before Apple was to announce its own competing VR headset. The Apple Vision Pro is called a spatial computer by its creators since it allows it to blend digital content with the physical world. In other words, create an augmented reality experience.
Blue Bird is No More
After Elon Musk bought Twitter out, it was evident that many changes would happen. What was not anticipated was a total rebranding. He announced that Twitter would now become X, and the logo was changed to a white X on a black background. What happened to the iconic blue bird logo? It was no more; it was removed, marking the end of an era and the beginning of a new one.
In their mind, this transformation will lead to the creation of a super app that will be an entirely new kind of social media. What is Musk’s actual vision is hard to tell, but the rebranding certainly brought in some sadness as people mourned the loss of Larry, the famous Twitter bird.
Competition for Twitter
Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Meta, started a new social media platform called Threads in July 2023. Just a few days later, he announced that 30 million people had already joined. Threads is similar to Twitter, and Zuckerberg acknowledged this by sharing a meme on Twitter.
On Threads, you can post text, pictures, and short videos, and interact with other users by liking, replying, commenting, and sharing their posts. Meta presents Threads as an extension of its photo and video-sharing app. When you sign up for Meta Threads, you can easily follow the same people you follow on Instagram, giving Threads an advantage by connecting you with people you already want to follow.
No News on Meta in Canada
In August, Meta started making changes to Facebook and Instagram in Canada. They're removing news content because of a new law in the country. This law says that tech and media companies in Canada must talk with news organizations about paying for their content (take a look at April in this very blog post)
Because of this, Canadian users won't be able to click on links to news articles on Facebook and Instagram. This decision is part of a bigger discussion worldwide about how news and social media companies work together and who benefits from news content. Needless to say, Meta is not everything. Canadian users will still be able to access news by going to the news outlets directly or signing up for in-app subscriptions to those outlets.
Launch of ChatGPT Enterprise
OpenAI shared big news in August about ChatGPT. They introduced ChatGPT Enterprise, a business version of the AI chatbot, which became available a few days after the business announcement.
The tool was developed in less than a year, with input from over 20 companies of different sizes and industries, according to OpenAI COO Brad Lightcap. ChatGPT Enterprise provides access to GPT-4 without any usage limits, performs up to two times faster than previous versions, and includes API credits.
A notable difference from the regular version is that ChatGPT Enterprise allows clients to use their company data to train and customize ChatGPT for their specific industries and needs. OpenAI also plans to introduce another usage tier called ChatGPT Business for smaller teams, but they have yet to specify when it will be available.
ChatGPT Has Spoken
OpenAI's ChatGPT received a significant update in September. Now, the chatbot can "see, hear, and speak" because it understands spoken words, responds with a synthetic voice, and processes images.
This update is the most significant one since the introduction of GPT-4. Users can now choose to have voice conversations with ChatGPT on its mobile app and pick from five different synthetic voices for the bot's responses.
This improvement is part of the ongoing competition among AI chatbot leaders like OpenAI, Microsoft, Google, and Anthropic. They are racing to release new chatbot apps and introduce new features to encourage people to use generative AI in their daily lives.
However, there are concerns about AI-generated synthetic voices. While they offer a more natural experience, they could also be used to create more convincing deepfakes. Some individuals, including cyber threat actors, are exploring how deepfakes might be used to compromise cybersecurity systems.
X For a Price
In September, Elon Musk talked about his plans for Twitter, now called X, in a livestreamed conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Musk mentioned that X will soon require a small monthly payment for using the system to tackle fake accounts.
During the livestream, Musk shared some new numbers about X, stating that it now has 550 million users every month who create 100 to 200 million posts each day.
Musk didn't say how many of these monthly users are real people and how many are bots. He also didn't directly compare these numbers to Twitter's metrics before he took over in May 2022, when Twitter reported having 229 million daily users.
A threat actor accessed an Okta support system administrator account using a stolen login, the second series of attacks on the identity and access management provider or its customers' Okta systems since late July.
The person looked at files containing sensitive information that some customers had uploaded as part of recent support cases, as explained by Okta CSO David Bradbury in a blog post.
Okta hasn't disclosed how many customers were affected by this attack, which happened about two months after four of its customers experienced social engineering attacks that compromised the accounts of highly privileged users.
Financially, Okta market share was significantly affected, as the company lost over $2 billion from its market value since revealing the hack of its support systems. This significant incident is the latest in a series of events linked to Okta or its products, including a set of intrusions at casinos that caused disruptions to Las Vegas hotel rooms for several days.
Meta’s Privacy Feature
Starting in October 2023, Meta is making it possible for you to stop Instagram from collecting your data on the apps and websites you use. You can now review which businesses share your information with Meta, disconnect specific activities, or clear the collected data.
Also, you can now download information from both your Facebook and Instagram accounts at the same time. Before, Meta only allowed you to download information separately, but you can still choose to do that if you prefer.
Earlier in 2023, Meta introduced the updated Accounts Center, which is like a central hub for controlling settings on your Instagram, Facebook, and Messenger accounts. They have been working on improving how ads work by providing more information about why you see certain ads. They also launched a new system for distributing ads in response to concerns about housing discrimination.
CZ Pleads Guilty
Changpeng Zhao, the founder and CEO of Binance, has agreed to admit guilt for money laundering violations. As part of a big agreement with U.S. law enforcement and financial regulators, he will step down from leading the world's largest crypto exchange. CZ, as he's commonly known, will also pay a $50 million fine. Binance, the company itself, will pay a hefty $4.3 billion in fines to settle these matters. Despite this, Binance can continue its operations.
This agreement ends investigations by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the commodities regulator concerning Binance. However, there's still a possibility that the company might face significant penalties from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Sam Altman Chaos
In the middle of November 2023, there was a big shake-up at OpenAI, which owns ChatGPT. The CEO, Sam Altman, was suddenly removed from his position because the board felt unsure about his ability to lead the company. This surprised many in the tech community. After this, a lot of OpenAI employees threatened to quit unless the board stepped down, and Altman was made CEO again.
During this time, Altman was offered a job at Microsoft, a big investor in OpenAI. He was supposed to lead Microsoft's new AI department with Greg Brockman, the president of OpenAI.
After a few days and a lot of upset in the business world, Altman returned to being the CEO of OpenAI. There was also a new board in place after he came back. Altman hasn't shared many details about why all this drama happened.
OpenAI Sued by The New York Times
In late December, The New York Times filed a lawsuit against OpenAI and Microsoft. They claim that millions of their articles were used without permission to train chatbots that provide information to readers.
The Times says it's the first major U.S. media organization to sue OpenAI, the creator of ChatGPT, and Microsoft, an investor in OpenAI and creator of the AI platform now called Copilot, over issues related to copyright.
In the lawsuit filed in a Manhattan federal court, The Times accuses OpenAI and Microsoft of taking advantage of the newspaper's significant investment in journalism without permission. The newspaper does not specify a particular amount of damages but estimates it to be in the "billions of dollars." They also want OpenAI and Microsoft to delete chatbot models and training sets that use their material.
This concludes our overview of what happened during 2023. Some events were amazing, others were shocking, but we think there is no denying that, from a technological perspective, 2023 had great leaps and improvements, especially in AI. What will 2024 bring? Let’s wait and see.