2016’s weirdest, wackiest tech stories

This year was chock full of wacky technology stories. Phones bursting into flames. A very public scandal over a private email server. And an insulted ex-tech exec with selective memory.

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We know you secretly love you some weirdness as much as you appreciate serious, informative technology journalism. So here’s a chance to revel in the bizarre turns technology took during 2016. Because fun, right?

Clinton’s emails

In July, the FBI cleared Hillary Clinton of any criminal wrongdoing for using a private email server while secretary of state. Then in November it probed newly uncovered emails … just 11 days before the U.S. election. A mere two days before the vote, it cleared her yet again. Perhaps Clinton should consider using Snapchat from now on.

Russian hack attack?

Did the Kremlin hack into Democratic Party networks and leak damaging data to sabotage Clinton’s campaign? Yes, according to the Washington Post and New York Times. Not necessarily, according to president-elect Donald Trump, who told Time magazine the culprit could be Russia, China or even “some guy in his home in New Jersey.”

Fiorina’s about-face

Remember when former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina ran for the GOP presidential nomination and Trump said, “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that?” Apparently Fiorina forgot all about that when she recently met with Trump to discuss a possible cabinet post in his administration. She might want to read up on HP Enterprise’s Memory-Driven Computing concept.

Facebook’s about-face

How’s this for a Facebook timeline? On Nov. 12, CEO Mark Zuckerberg downplayed rumblings that fake news posts on the social network seriously swayed the U.S. election outcome. On Nov. 16, research by BuzzFeed indicated that fake election news generated more engagement on Facebook than the top-performing election stories from legitimate sources like NBC News and the New York Times.

Two days later on Nov. 18, Zuckerberg backtracked by outlining Facebook’s plan to weed out bogus news. Since he posted it as a status update on his Facebook account, it must be real, right?

Zuckerberg gets pwned

Speaking of Zuckerberg, he became a father when adorable daughter Max arrived in 2015. Maybe that’s why he chose ‘dadada’ as the password for several of his social media accounts. Hacker group OurMine claims it used that password to pwn Zuckerberg on social media this year, breaching his Twitter account once, his Pinterest account twice but, thankfully, not his Facebook account.

Twitter’s meltdown

After posting a third-quarter loss of US$103 million, Twitter laid off nine per cent of its global workforce and announced plans to sell or shut down Vine, proving that popularity (317 million monthly active users, in this case) does not guarantee #profitability or #sustainability.

Yahoo deal sours

Verizon has offered to buy Yahoo for US$4.8 billion. Before the deal is official, however, Verizon would like a few more details about that teensy little breach involving 500 million Yahoo accounts. Did we say 500 million? Oh yeah, Yahoo just updated that figure to one billion.

Samsung’s phone flameout

We’ve heard of hot product launches but this is ridiculous, not to mention downright dangerous. First we had incidents of hoverboards exploding or spontaneously combusting; then came reports of flammable phones. After customers complained their Galaxy Note 7 smartphones were bursting into flames, Samsung offered them replacement handsets.

When the replacement phones also melted or overheated, Samsung discontinued that specific model completely, a move analysts say could cost the company up to US$17 billion.

Pokémon Gone?

Pokémon Go swiftly set five Guinness World Records right after its release, racking up the highest ever one-month totals for downloads and revenue. That was in August.

Only four months later, a Harvard study suggested the health and exercise benefits of the game are fleeting. Although players took an average of 955 extra steps a day during their first week of chasing Pokémon, that figure sank back down to pre-game levels just six weeks later. Half a year after it started, perhaps the Pokémon Go craze has already peaked.

Take heart, though. With the New Year around the corner, a fresh crop of weird tech trends, twists and turns is almost upon us. Happy high-tech holidays, everyone.

Image: iStock

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