2013’s biggest moments in tech

December 26, 2013, 11:51 AM UTC

Edward Snowden leaks National Security Agency documents

Snowden, an NSA intelligence contractor, became one of the most controversial public figures of the 21st century when he leaked up to 200,000 classified documents to the press. In doing so, he helped reveal several previously unknown U.S. surveillance programs that garnered global attention and criticism, included the secret collection of user data from companies like Yahoo (YHOO) and Google (GOOG).

Twitter goes public

Seven years after it was founded, Twitter (TWTR) began trading on the New York Stock Exchange at $45.10 -- 73% above its initial public offering price -- and closing its first day with a $31 billion valuation, comparable to Yahoo's Wall Street debut in 1996. So far, the social network has largely managed to avoid the ups and downs Facebook (FB) experienced when it went public the year before. To wit, Twitter stock is up over 24% to date.

Yahoo buys Tumblr ... for $1.1 billion

Yahoo's $1.1 billion headline-making purchase of Tumblr in May wasn't the year's biggest tech acquisition -- that distinction should probably go to Microsoft's $7.2 billion bid for Nokia -- but it was Marissa Mayer's largest investment since becoming CEO. It was a big bet she argued earlier this year helps shore up Yahoo's decidedly older demographic with Tumblr's younger set.

Steve Ballmer says he's stepping down

In August, Steve Ballmer declared he would step down as Microsoft's (MSFT) CEO within 12 months. "At the end of the day, we need to break a pattern. Face it: I'm a pattern," he told the Wall Street Journal earlier this year. Since the announcement, Ballmer has been on a farewell tour of sorts, authoring a last, passionate shareholders' letter, even breaking down in tears and dancing to the Michael Jackson track, "Wanna be Startin' Somethin,'" as he delivered a farewell speech at a company meeting.

iOS 7 debuts

When Tim Cook officially unveiled the latest version of Apple's (AAPL) iOS software this June, he dubbed it the "biggest change since the original iPhone." For iPhone and iPad users at least, it wasn't all hyperbole. iOS 7 marks a major departure from the past, ditching the skeuomorphism-inspired aesthetic that once peddled digitized bookshelves with wood veneers or brushed chrome for a flatter, cleaner, and brighter look.

Bitcoin cracks $1,000

For the first time ever, the value of a Bitcoin surpassed $1,000 this November: a whopping 4,000% increase since the start of the year. Even more incredible is how widespread the digital currency has become since its creation in 2008. While Bitcoin was long associated with transactions conducted on the digital black market Silk Road, it's now accepted at select places worldwide top pay for food, even college tuition.

Electronic car company Tesla makes a profit

When Elon Musk was in college, he argued the world needed an environmentally clean mode of transportation. Now with Tesla (TSLA), Musk is making good on that vision, one electric vehicle at a time. The 10-year-old company turned a surprise profit during its second quarter, and the company could generate over $2 billion in sales this year.

'House of Cards' nabs Emmys

Netflix's (NFLX) backstabbing, Capitol Hill drama with Kevin Spacey reportedly cost at least $4.5 million per episode to make, an effort that didn't go unnnoticed. House of Cards was partly responsible for adding 3 million new Netflix subscribers during first quarter of 2013, but it also received three Emmys -- the first online-only series of any kind to win such recognition.

Salesforce and Oracle saddle up

At one time, Salesforce (CRM) and Oracle (ORCL) seemed the unlikeliest of duos. But last June, they surprised the industry when they announced a nine-year partnership. Included in the agreement, Salesforce would use Oracle's database and Fusion human capital management software for HR departments. Meanwhile, Oracle would run Salesforce's customer relationship management software. "This is a new world, this is a new time," Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff explained during a press conference then. "Companies like Salesforce and Oracle working together are evidence that that's how it has to be."

Amazon teams up with the U.S. Postal Service

Can Jeff Bezos save snail mail? In November, Amazon (AMZN) announced a partnership with the U.S. Postal Service, which hemorrhaged nearly $16 billion last year, enabling Sunday delivery of customer orders at no extra charge. Already, the service caters to Los Angeles and New York metropolitan areas, with plans to expand to cities including Dallas, Houston, and Phoenix in 2014.

The Xbox One & PlayStation 4 launch

By launching video game consoles this November, Microsoft and Sony (SNE) ushered in the next generation of gaming. The Xbox One uses a more advanced version of the Kinect motion controller so players can navigate menus by voice or gesture; priced $100 less than its competitor, the PlayStation 4 sports computational performance roughly 10 times that of the PlayStation 3.