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A decade of technology: These 10 things changed the world in the 2010s


From the boom in smartphones and tablets to WhatsApp and 3D printers to artificial intelligence and blockchain: in the 2010s, technology not only generated one or two hype, it also changed our everyday lives. The 1E9 community worked together to determine the ten things that they believed had the greatest impact.

By Michael Förtsch, Wolfgang Kerler and the members of the 1E9 circle @ 2010er

Others already looked back on the 2010s in December. We wanted to wait until the decade was really over. In the last days of last year, the 1E9 community collected ideas and voted on which technologies, innovations and developments were particularly formative for the past decade, whose tech balance sheet is impressive, but mixed. These ten things made the final list.

Smartphones and tablets are conquering the world

The iPhone came out in 2007, so it's a child of the 00s. But mobile phones with real computing power and touchscreens did not experience their breakthrough until the following decade. At the beginning of 2010 there were around eight million smartphone users in Germany. In 2019 it was almost 65 million. The people who do not have a smartphone are now in the minority.

@Krischan wrote in the 1E9 community about his first iPhone: “This was the first time that the feeling of having a real computer in your pocket, with all the possibilities that a computer has - and at that time already with formidable addictive substances from Doodle Jump to the Feedly app. Curse and blessing of the decade. "


On January 27, 2010, Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad.

Tablets are now also found in 20 million German households - and they are actually a success story that began in the 10s. Again Apple managed to design the devices so that they were easy to use and comfortable. the foundation for it. On January 27, 2010, company co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs, who died of cancer on October 5, 2011, unveiled the iPad.

“The tablet has set important impulses for more and better mobile working, opened up new avenues for mobile entertainment and opened the way to the older generation smart world leveled ”, wrote 1E9 member @heidischall about the importance of flat, keyboard-free computers.

In connection with the mobile Internet, smartphones and tablets brought with them a wealth of new services that often made everyday life easier, more entertaining and cheaper. Accordingly, the majority of the 1E9 voting members felt that the rise of wearable devices was a good achievement in the 2010s. However, they also brought new problems with them, from problematic use to smartphone addiction, which is even linked to depression and anxiety.

Messenger linked the world

The applications that are more closely linked to smartphones than any other are instant messenger services. Just like smartphones, their roots actually extend far beyond the last ten years. Because the first messenger apps were Gadu-Gadu, ICQ and AOL Instant Messenger, which were initially used almost exclusively on desktop PCs. With smartphones and a constant connection to the network in your pocket, such services became killer applications: as an alternative to expensive SMS. The developers of WhatsApp in particular recognized this.

Founded in 2009 as a small company whose app was initially only there to publish simple status messages, WhatsApp was bought by Facebook five years later for 19 billion and is now one of the most widely used apps of all. The competition is now gigantic: WeChat, the Facebook Messenger, QQ Mobile, Telegram, Signal and many more share the global market, which makes SMS, classic calls and emails largely superfluous for the younger generations and many professions. Because, of course, the apps can be used to send voice messages, images, data and much more - and that is now also encrypted and totally secure.

“Mark Zuckerberg launched Messenger in 2011 and announced the end of the long messages. I remember thinking of it as impossible in a work context. The email is not dead, I still don't use the FB Messenger, but I use WhatsApp in a lot of work situations, ”writes about 1E9 user @Daria.

In addition, the use of messengers often goes beyond simply sending messages in whatever form. Not only because messengers like WeChat combine a whole mobile ecosystem that also enables mobile payment, booking of doctor's appointments and taxis, but because the apps can also be used in ways that the creators probably did not foresee.

With the function of opening their own chat groups, messengers became organizational tools: They created space for niches and scenes - regardless of whether for professional groups or for people with specific interests. At the same time, they became tools of bullying, culture warfare and resistance. 1E9 member @unulaunu recalls, for example, that in the 2010s, “protests, uprisings and revolutions were organized through direct networking via a messenger and that authoritarian regimes were brought down in the North African states”.

Blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies promise radical changes

On December 17, 2017, the hype surrounding Bitcoin, the digital currency based on blockchain technology, reached its peak. Together with the Bitcoin course. That day it broke the $ 20,000 mark. In 2010 a Bitcoin cost 10 cents. It is currently around $ 7,000. In the slipstream of Bitcoin, which has been traded since 2009, over 1600 other cryptocurrencies were created in the 2010s.

The boom in digital money also attracted massive attention to blockchain technology, which was invented by the mysterious Bitcoin inventor Satoshi Nakamoto - or the team of inventors who might be hiding behind the name. The highlight of the blockchain: It replaces central databases, which are often in the hands of platform operators or banks, with a decentralized network made up of many computers. There, transactions can be stored in a virtually forgery-proof and cryptographically encrypted manner. Other distributed ledger technologies such as Ethereum even enable the automatic execution of transactions through smart contracts - without an intermediary.


Not only cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups experienced a boom, also videos and articles that tried to explain the complex technology.

The blockchain has great potential. 1E9 user SpontifexMaximus writes about it: “A technology is developing here that may one day make traditional banks superfluous. Even transactions that still require notarial deeds with us, for example land purchase agreements, could be carried out using blockchain procedures with the necessary legal security even without a notary. "

Start-ups want to use blockchain and other decentralization solutions to attack internet giants such as AirBnB and Ebay. Or create an open platform for Industry 4.0 and the machine economy of the future. But corporations such as IBM and Maersk, Facebook and Twitter have also discovered the blockchain for themselves.

But the hype also brought many critics to the scene. Not only because cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin were used to illegally buy drugs or weapons on the dark web, but also because suddenly so many blockchain projects emerged that one got the feeling that the whole world could be saved by blockchain alone. On closer inspection, however, many projects did not deliver any results. Or they were scams where people got money out of their pockets. Another problem, especially with Bitcoin: the gigantic energy consumption. The majority of the 1E9 members were of the opinion that the blockchain was a good development of the 2010s.

The rise and fall of Web 2.0 and the politicization of social networks

The decade had started so hopefully. On January 22, 2010, the then US Secretary of State gave a speech on Internet freedom. In it, she praised the network as a tool to organize demonstrations that would support a global democracy movement. "The connection to global information networks is like a ramp into the modern age," said Clinton. And at first it looked like she was proved right.


Hillary Clinton speaking in the now closed Newseum in Washington D.C. on January 22, 2010. The fact that she did not later become US President may also have something to do with Facebook and Twitter.

Web 2.0, in which users could suddenly create and distribute content themselves and interact with millions, even billions of other users, seemed to be an engine of progress. The Arab Spring began in Tunisia in December 2010, when demonstrators took to the streets for democracy in numerous Arab countries. Twitter, Facebook and YouTube helped the activists to get their messages out into the world.

Even if it now looks as if the influence of social networks has been overestimated, social networks, but also messenger services, have become tools of the democracy movement. This can currently be seen again in Hong Kong, as 1E9 member @unulaunu pointed out. But Facebook and Twitter play a subordinate role there, because their star began to decline over the course of the decade - although their user numbers initially grew rapidly. While Facebook still had 400 million monthly active users at the beginning of the 2010s, it was 2.4 billion at the end. YouTube now comes to a very similar value. And on Twitter, the number rose from 30 to over 300 million.

But with the rise the problems began. In 2013, Edward Snowden reminded the world that the personal information we disclose online has also been analyzed by secret services. In 2016, Donald Trump also used Twitter and Facebook to win the US election with a campaign that was also based on lies. In the Brexit referendum a few months earlier, this strategy had helped the Brexit supporters in particular.

That the company, which supported both Trump and the Brexiteers in their digital election campaign, illegally used the data of tens of millions of Facebook users to create personality profiles of voters, finally came out in early 2018. The Cambridge Analytica scandal further damaged Facebook's already battered reputation - while fake news, hatred and agitation were spread via the platform, which was visible to all. The “ramp to modernity” became a “danger to democracy”. The majority in the 1E9 circle @ 2010s was of the opinion that the development of social networks had been bad.


Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg also had to face questions from US congressmen after the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

The internet has been streaming since the 2010s!

1E9 editor @Michael rightly noted in the 2010 circle that video streaming and streaming services are actually not really new. They already existed in the 1990s. But experiments like Pixelon or Pseudo.com failed. Both because of the technology and the lack of bandwidth to send a decent video stream through the Internet to the user. Today? No problem anymore. Almost 37 percent of the world's population with Internet access use Netflix and almost 20 percent the Amazon Prime Video service - and that was in 2017. Almost 1.9 billion people are also on YouTube and almost 2.2 million people broadcast on Twitch every day!

The streaming and video services have thus become a formative force in the arts, culture and society: series such as Stranger Things, documentaries such as Making a Murderer are increasingly being held there. Instead of an editorial, it was the YouTube video The Destruction of the CDU in 2019 that sparked a social debate. And again and again, video streams with video game content that appear as banal as on Twitch cause controversies and scandals that lead to discussions about racism, sexism and privacy.

Both the major streaming services and video services such as YouTube and Twitch are not only gradually robbing the classic TV channels of their viewers, but also taking away their social and political relevance. But that is not only remarkable or good, it is also dangerous in parts. Because while Netflix and Amazon Prime Video control and curate who sees what with their professional content, this is not that easy with Twitch and YouTube. For the first time, anyone broadcasting there is unrestrictedly visible!

Radicals and conspiracy theorists still find it easy to share their content on YouTube, to trap, confuse, unsettle and radicalize people with it. Assassins and murderers used Twitch and similar platforms to stream acts of violence online and attract attention. This also makes this technology and the democratization of the public a challenge.

Oh yes, of course, not only has video been streamed since the 2010s, but also music and podcasts. Spotify, which started the decade with a single-digit million number of monthly users, now has 250 million listeners per month. So it's no wonder that the majority of 1E9 users rate the streaming boom positively.

The democratization of space travel

As New Space , as the new space describes the era of the space industry, which has been picking up more and more speed for a few years and is experiencing rapid developments. For the past decade, space travel has definitely not only been a matter of nations, but also of companies and even private individuals. SpaceX and its founder Elon Musk, who in 2002 set himself the task of making space travel cheaper - by making rockets reusable - are not innocent of this. In the 2010s he finally proved that it can be done. Now he wants to shoot the first people into space.

"This inspired numerous other existing rocket builders as well as numerous start-ups to develop new rockets and opportunities to To bring things into space ",writes @Michael. The start-up Rocket Lab, for example, builds small rockets to launch small satellites into space. Many want to join in soon! Spaceflight Industries, on the other hand, arranges flight opportunities in rockets - and not only to space organizations, companies and countries, but also to schools, universities and artists. Space has thus been democratized. It is now open to everyone, at least in theory.

Numerous companies are already planning their own space stations in space, they want to organize deliveries to the moon or, in space by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and SpaceX visionary Elon Musk, set up lunar and Mars bases. Most of the 1E9 users who voted thought this was a good thing!

From car parts to organs: 3D printers are becoming (almost) all-rounders

The 3D printer is an invention of the 1980s. But as is sometimes the case with technology, it took him three more decades to experience a real heyday. In the 2010s, the prices for 3D printers dropped significantly - and additive manufacturing continued to conquer new areas of application.

They can make cars better and cheaper or print entire houses, saving not only time but also resources. Medical implants can be individually adapted to patients using 3D printing - and work is already underway on organs that are 3D printed from human cells.

With 3D printers and the right software, completely new forms of product design are now possible, which - and this could be decisive in the future - require far fewer resources and energy than conventional products. And because 3D printers can also save transport routes, they could make an important contribution to climate protection. So in the 1E9 vote, everyone found 3D printers to be a good thing.

When Artificial Intelligence was suddenly everywhere

The concept of artificial intelligence is difficult. Because of course today's Artificial Intelligences are not really intelligent. They cannot think and understand as humans or animals do. Rather, they are computer programs that have been trained more or less specifically with data packets in order to recognize patterns to which they then react.

"In the meantime I have come to terms with the fact that the term AI is used for many applications that are based on machine learning," wrote 1E9 editor-in-chief @Wolfgang. Because that doesn't make the technology any less useful and versatile. AI can sort data, classify images, recognize and simulate speech, and perform specific tasks and make decisions in other defined areas.

Of course, this has little to do with the image that science fiction has conveyed for decades.But that didn't slow down the hype surrounding artificial intelligence in the 2010s. Suddenly, Artificial Intelligence was felt everywhere and constantly present. This is thanks above all to home and voice assistants such as Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant, who brought artificial intelligence into your pocket and living room - and gave the obscure technology a voice. Even if they still happily responded to queries and orders from time to time.

Artificial intelligence has come a long way in other ways as well. Especially since we don't always see it! Because behind the autonomous cars from Waymo, Uber and Co. there are artificial intelligences that learn to find your way in traffic. On stock exchanges, Artificial Intelligences trade gigantic share and derivative packages in a fraction of a second. Artificial intelligences read and decipher X-ray images. They help to design new cities and to better understand the weather and climate. They study surgical interventions and how they can be recreated. AIs can now be almost creative.

But last but not least, it is artificial intelligences that enable a new and terrifying form of surveillance in which they recognize faces or analyze a person's gait and behavior. Especially in China, as @Wolfgang notes. But also elsewhere: Artificial intelligence is used worldwide to test predictive policing, i.e. the prediction of crimes based on police reports and statistics. Something that, as it turns out, does not lead to safe cities, but to more racism among the police. Because: The data determine what Artificial Intelligences think . And data is very often still generated by people who are far from perfect.

So while AI, like most technologies, is a double-edged sword, 1E9 users saw a positive move in their progress during the 2010s.

Scientific breakthroughs - from “god particles” to nuclear fusion

A whole series of scientific achievements came to mind when the 1E9 members gathered ideas for this review. As a representative only a few of them should be mentioned here, which turned out to be particularly spectacular.

On July 4, 2012, the scientists at the CERN research center announced that they had most likely discovered the Higgs particle with the particle accelerator there, after having been searching for decades. The particle, whose existence was suspected by the physicist Peter Higgs as early as 1964, is better known as the “god particle”. Why? It's a bit complex. In short: Without god particles there would be ... Nothing . Because it is they who give other elementary particles a mass. And without mass there would be no matter.

On September 14, 2015, researchers at LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitation Wave Observatory, were able to measure gravitational waves for the first time, "which Einstein postulated about 100 years ago," as 1E9 member @justherb wrote. According to the scientists, the deformations in space-time had their origin in the collision of two black holes 1.3 billion years ago. The 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded for the discovery.

The Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics in Greifswald reported a world record on June 25, 2018. During experiments with the Wendelstein 7-X fusion reactor there, in which, just like in the sun, energy is to be generated by fusing atomic nuclei, a new one was able to be produced Maximum value for the energy content of the plasma can be achieved. This is "the basis for a functioning nuclear fusion," said 1E9 user @Kashi - just like the scientists from Greifswald. All of the community members involved in the vote liked the fact that many scientific breakthroughs were also achieved in the 2010s.

The war in cyberspace - and soon in space?

The 1E9 community rates the as a bad development of the 2010s Cyberwar one, i.e. the war in the digital space and against digital infrastructure. Although it began before the last decade, it reached completely new dimensions. In June 2010, Stuxnet, malware that attacked a Siemens control system that was used in plants belonging to the Iranian nuclear program, was discovered. For 1E9 member @ 0x78, Stuxnet marked the "beginning of the age of cyber wars". Other malicious programs followed Stuxnet and made headlines. In May 2017, WannaCry paralyzed the billboards at German train stations, among other things. NotPetya caused over $ 10 billion in damage that same year.

While the German Bundeswehr only got its own organizational area for cyberspace in 2017 with the cyber and information space, or CIR for short, other plans have already been developed in the USA. In late 2019, President Donald Trump founded the Space Force to prepare the country for war in space. NATO also discovered space as a possible area of ​​operation.

Thanks to all members of the Zirkel @ 2010er who helped create this review. All other members are of course very welcome to add to the list! Because it is guaranteed not to be complete.

Cover picture: Artur Debat / Getty Images