robot with book and computer

Revisiting 2018’s Tech Trends

Last year around this time, we asked a few members of our executive team to fire up their crystal balls and tell us what they saw in the mists of 2018’s tech future.

Now it’s time to take a look back and see how right (or wrong) they were, which things came out of the blue, and what tech trends to keep an eye on in the new year.

AI: A False Start?

Many of our execs were excited to see how Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning were going to disrupt the market last year. But so far, we haven’t been blown away by the robots.

Namecheap CEO Richard Kirkendall predicted that “hardware powered by [AI] software is where the most exciting advancements will be taking place. With the focus on independent machines…” But COO Hillan Klein said recently: “we have yet to see AI really start to move the needle in improving customer experience and helping small business owners to become more effective at building their business online.”

robot at computer

For example, we predicted a shakeup in domain transfer and ownership with low-value leases allowing individual domain owners opportunities with the help of machine learning. Domainers could ostensibly buy domains for the base registration price, then, with some automated assistance, lease them on an open-ended basis for that price plus their desired markup.

Having a year to think it over, however, the general consensus among the group is that it’s likely that this kind of customer benefit won’t happen until automation has developed a little further.

But because we know tech is nothing if not dynamic, Klein still firmly believes that AI and machine learning are inevitable market disruptors, be it in 2019 or beyond.

Wal-Mart & Amazon: Clash of the E-commerce Titans

As we closed out 2017, many of us focused on Amazon’s increasingly dominant position in the marketplace and its likely expansion into new regions. Wal-Mart also came out as a  strong competitor that year, though, showing the potential to seriously compete with Amazon through its own advancements in the tech space ecosystem.

As we move into a new year, it looks like the competition will only get more intense. Namecheap R&D lab’s Phil McKegney notes that “Wal-Mart has had a very strong year and has no signs of slowing down. Their focus on e-commerce and expansion of their marketplace make them a direct threat to Amazon. I think this is a battle that is just starting and will be very interesting to watch over the coming years.”

Not to be outdone, however, “Amazon continues to grow in its chosen verticals, and has fared particularly well in the cloud space over the last year.” he says. “From the outside, and as we kick-off 2019, Amazon continues to innovate across numerous industries, often disrupting the status quo.”

GDPR: Worse Before it Gets Better

At the beginning of 2018, the world was preparing for one of the biggest regulatory shifts the Internet had ever seen—the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR. This data privacy law (which became enforceable at the end of May) now requires companies to provide rigorous customer privacy protections and to be more transparent about the data they collect.

man looking through binoculars

Last January, McKegney warned of legal and regulatory vulnerabilities that might accompany GDPR, predicting that they “will likely change publication of domain ownership records (Whois) as we know it,” and cautioning against adverse side effects of the regulation such as “unintended facilitation of online abuses like fraud and spam, especially in the near- to mid-term while new control solutions are developed.”

So what’s the verdict? Unfortunately, McKegney isn’t happy to be right about this one, today stating that “one of the GDPR’s biggest impacts and risks in many ways is the confusion that has been caused by the regulations which may create opportunities for bad actors to exploit new undiscovered vulnerabilities.”

Looks like we’ll have to wait until the dust settles to determine the true effects of the GDPR in the new year. Stay tuned (and stay safe).

Facebook: The Beginning of the End?

Speaking of staying tuned, grab the popcorn because it looks like the drama swirling around Facebook is getting more intense than we may have anticipated.

Last year at this time, we were cautiously curious about the social media giant’s allegedly questionable practices around user data: “I think traditional social media like Facebook usage might change in 2018 as mistrust around its usage grows,” said McKegney. “I expect (and hope) to see that people will share less and be more critical of what is shared with them.”

How times have changed: “It certainly feels like 2018 was a bad year for Facebook,” he reports. “Writing this mid-November, 2018—a day after the New York Times’ article on Facebook’s strategy of “Delay, Deny and Deflect’–I think it’s too early to really understand what is happening because we’re really in the middle of it. However, I expect that there will be a fair amount of research into understanding Facebook’s usage patterns over the coming months along with a seemingly endless amount of news coverage.”

Trends to Track in 2019

While learning from the past is important, it’s always essential in tech to keep an eye on the future, scanning for trends that could define our industry, and the world, in the years to come.

hedgehog celebrating getting paid

One trend we noticed in 2018 was the emergence of tech companies focused on financing and lending to small business owners. “While any business owner needs to consider their options and only source financing where their business model can support it,” Klein notes, “for those that can benefit from increased access to capital, this is exciting as it can help entrepreneurs to get the extra support they need to expand their business, and keep growing through 2019.”

He’s also following the noteworthy trend that’s transforming the gig economy: “Talented individuals with specific skills are finding work through online platforms,” he says, “allowing them to dictate their own hours, work flexibly from home or a co-working space, and build their personal brand within their industry.” As the gig job market moves beyond car share drivers and delivery services, this trend could play a major part in the evolution of the modern employment landscape.

The Most Reliable Trend

In the end, people continue to innovate in the tech realm. Last year, for example, we witnessed “personal security and responsibility tools at the customer level becoming more commonplace, with anti-virus companies offering browser plugins that alert to potentially hazardous websites.”

We saw this move toward accountability and community protection as a desire for users to come together to make the online experience better, safer, and more reliable for everyone. We’re happy to say this is one trend that seems to be moving in a positive direction.

14 thoughts on “Revisiting 2018’s Tech Trends”

  1. AI while beneficial to the user in one regarding is dangerous at the dinner table in the next.
    This trend of wanting to see machines becoming “sentient like” is intent on putting millions on the hunger list as there will be no jobs available for the average intelligent human is a few decades from now…

    Funny thing though everything in existence and that has been brought into existence has its limits and a boundary that cannot be breached so there’s the hope that this level of machine advancement will not last a millenia and everything will go right back to the controls of humans

  2. Automation will not be “putting millions on the hunger list.” This is a common economic misconception that is dispelled by economic theory in that automation increases the marginal productivity of labor and therefore increases the standard of living of all. History has also demonstrated this as people have worried for the last 1,500 years that innovation in production will put people out of work, yet 1,500 years worth of automation in various industries has only increased the standard of living of everyone with far less people “on the hunger list.”

    However, since we do not understand consciousness we cannot hope to make AI what people imagine and the over-confidence by both philosophers of mind and AI developers is continually being demonstrated with poor AI performance and ridiculously wrong predictions. I’m not saying it’s impossible in principle, but since they don’t understand what’s behind consciousness, learning, and understanding, they will continue to disappoint until they realize what they’re dealing with.

  3. One of the benefits of automation is to free people to change their position in life. Change is the requirement. Abuse of convenience is always a risk

  4. I think AI will be dangerous for everyone. It will eliminate many jobs and provide nothing for many and little benefits to those who think they will benefit from it. I think that AI is a threat to humankind

  5. The whole point of the “Facebook: The Beginning of the End” piece seems to be an implication that investigation (presumably by the “authorities”…meaning the local or federal political states) might somehow result in Facebook’s being coerced out of business (legally, of course; legalized coercion by the state is generally not recognized as coercion).

    I don’t think that’s going to happen. While I’m not sure that Facebook’s tally that they have “billions” of users is accurate, it must surely be hundreds of millions. I can only imagine the hue and cry of all those people who suddenly would feel deprived of all meaning in their lives if they couldn’t share the intimate details of their bowel movements with the rest of their fellow Facebook addicts.

    If the state became that blatantly coercive, there would be a rebellion.

    What it actually would take to bring Facebook down would be its users realizing, en masse, just how exposed they have made themselves by posting every detail about their lives…and I don’t think that will ever happen. Facebook makes them feel like they’re somebody, and they’re not going to give that up. They don’t see posting their private information as a downside; on the contrary, it’s their biggest motivator.

    Zuckerberg’s malevolent genius is that he figured that out, and figured out how to exploit it for his benefit. The fact that the cost to Facebook users in their loss of privacy and security is a potential disaster waiting to happen is of no interest to him.

    Until people wake up to the reality that their information is property and they treat it with the same respect and protection they have for their other, more tangible property, Facebook isn’t going anywhere. It owes its very existence to the fact that most people are blind to the fact that intangible property is actually the most valuable property of all.

  6. I use amazon.com and walmart.com.
    The latter is not even in the same cyberspace as the former.
    Walmart has all the problems of a rookie website: errors, slow to deliver, lack of inventory control, poor noticing of consumers, a short deadline to retrieve goods and expensive shipping. In short, Walmart has everything that would send you elsewhere.
    Amazon is brilliant even in the face of the “Bozo” divorce.

  7. There will always be new jobs. Old jobs will be replaced with new jobs. Besides, people work far to many hours of their lifes anyway. AI might in the end provide the means for real change in that department. People would feel much better working fewer hours and have more time to spend with their loved ones.

  8. I don’t know if anyone else has had this thought cross their minds or not however one night I was up late working and suddenly a thought crossed my mind, there is an old late 60’s early 70’s song by Zager & Evans – In The Year 2525.
    Well, in the song, for those who doesn’t know the song, talks about how by the year 2525, technology takes over and there is nothing left for humans to do but live in a tube (so to speak), if you listen to the words of that song and have been paying attention to world events, well it is kind of scary yet intriguing that when that song was popular there was no such thing as a cell or smart phone or computers, well not for the public at large anyways, yet the group/persons that wrote the song has eerily foretold atleast some of the future as it has come to pass. Not that I think that all technology is harmful etc but cause it isn’t however, when growing up I didnt know what a smartphone was or a video game, we played outside, formed lifelong friendships and would explore, physically, the woods and nature. Today’s youth 90% of the time is on a computer even doing school work this way, than using a pen and paper and not getting exercise fresh air and socializing with other youth their own age. I just think that we need to really slow down and get more in tune with each other and ourselves again. We lived many thousands of years without a computer or phone, why is it so hard now to do the same thing?
    I do think that we (humankind that is) are becoming to dependent on technology for the most part, we need to take a step back and re-evaluate things, but that is just my own opinion. I think we need to be less dependent on machines and technology and more dependent on ourselves before it becomes too late.
    No offense to anyone nor am I one to point fingers etc, I’m just trying to point out the song from years before a computer or automation etc has pretty much called it long before now. I just thought it was an interesting tidbit.
    Have a great day!

  9. With the advent of AI it won’t be long before the entire job force shrinks and we are left fighting over an overpopulated underproducing world.

  10. AI – scary… while true we’ve had innovation that has changed A LOT of things over many many many years, I think AI has the potential for the biggest most widespread disruption. All of these different jobs for humans that are supposedly gonna pop up and/or develop… I just don’t see it and certainly not enough of them to serve the population as a whole. For me, while humans make plenty of mistakes… self driven vehicles of any sort on the road… I’ll pass. Yes yes yes humans are fallible but I don’t want any accidents happening because the human like interpretive code screwed up in it’s human assessments. If a wreck is gonna happen a human can act with compassion… that decision wrapped up in computer code ummmmmm.

    Also, on jobs and changes in general… I think everybody (I don’t know if it was a MEDIA PROPELLED SELL OR WHAT) on this gig economy went wacko. Don’t get me wrong I think there’s some opportunity and jobs there and some new found flexibility… but I’m not buying into it (just saw on one commercial recently) 50% of people will be self-employed like everybody is running their own successful business. 50% of us… entrepreneurship is great… but I’ll tell ya if you think that’s gonna reach 50% then IMO I’ll show you a bunch of hungry people fighting over gigs that constantly get priced and re-priced downward. I’m okay with being wrong on that but I just don’t see it.

  11. I am optimistic about AI. I so much believe it will go a long way in helping small business owners. Automation so far has only made life easier for people, while helping the average entrepreneur accelerate his business growth.

    Though there is a growing concern of loss of jobs due AI, the pros outweighs the cons. The possibility is endless. AI is still very much at it’s baby stage, over the next millennium, it’s impact will be tremendously felt across all sectors.

  12. The economic ignorance displayed here is frightening. Even with all the benefits AI would bring, people will hate and fight it in a manner like a primitive tribesman would fear and attack current technology out of superstitious beliefs and sheer ignorance.

  13. Personally saying, AI will no doubt is going to bring so much of advancements and comforts in the near future, but the main concern that lies is Security and Safety of data, and also decreasing jobs due to Automation and AI.

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