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Data Sheet—The Tech Year in Review, As Seen by Data Sheet Readers

January 2, 2019, 2:04 PM UTC

This is the web version of Data Sheet, Fortune’s daily newsletter on the top tech news. To get it delivered daily to your in-box, sign up here.

Welcome back to Data Sheet. We hope you’re feeling refreshed and reenergized after the holidays. Before we get to what’s new in 2019, here’s a quick look back at some of the newsletter’s highlights from 2018.

While we try to cover all manner of tech news, from moves by industry giants to the launch of interesting startups, you, the readers, might be most interested in the giants. Here are the subject lines of the 10 most read newsletter issues from last year—and you’ll notice the predominance of one iPhone maker in particular:

1. “Giving Trump some credit for Apple moves” (Jan. 18)
2. “Raw water is the least of our problems” (Jan. 5)
3. “Apple pulling a Zune” (Aug. 10)
4. “Apple’s big reveal” (Aug. 2)
5. “Tim Cook’s tough day” (Nov. 2)
6. “Google’s mind blowing AI demo” (May 10)
7. “Amazon’s HQ2 outposts” (Nov. 6)
8. “Facebook eviscerated over fake news” (Feb. 13)
9. “Murder in China” (Aug. 29)
10. “Satya’s next big deal” (Sept. 24)

It’s also interesting which links were most popular with readers. Here are the five links from Fortune and five from outside sources that drew the most unique readers from Data Sheet:

1. The End Is Near for the Economic Boom
2. Fortune’s 100 Fastest Growing Companies
3. What the Hell Happened at GE?
4. 25 Ways A.I. Is Changing Business
5. Former Tronc Chairman and Investor Michael Ferro Accused of Inappropriate Advances by Two Women

1. Silicon Valley Is Changing, and Its Lead Over Other Tech Hubs Narrowing (The Economist)
2. Inside the Two Years That Shook Facebook—And the World (Wired)
3. Jeff Bezos Letter to Shareholders (Amazon)
4. Slaughterbots video (YouTube)
5. The People’s Republic of Cruelty (New York Times)

Just misses included two of my favorite links of the year:

Meet the 15-Year-Old Who Is the New Champion of Microsoft Excel (Fortune)
Package Thief vs. Glitter Bomb Trap (YouTube)

It turned out later that a few parts of the Glitter Bomb video had been faked. Isn’t that the perfect ending for 2018?

Aaron Pressman


Netflix and chill. The CFO of Activision Blizzard, Spencer Neumann, joined the video game titan in May 2017 after a successful career at Disney. Now after a short stint, he's jumping to Netflix to take over the same role from departing CFO David Wells. But something may be amuck, as Activision said in a securities filing on Dec. 31 that Neumann was being fired for cause. Neumann may have more cash to count at his new job—Netflix is dropping the ability for customers to sign up through its apps on iPhones and iPads. That could save the company almost $1 billion in payments to Apple, TechCrunch estimates.

Meltdown. The trade war with China claimed a prominent tech industry victim. Bill Gates says his nuclear power startup, TerraPower LLC, can't continue working with the Chinese due to recent U.S. policy changes. The company had been building its first reactor with China, but now must find a new partner. “We’re regrouping,” CEO Chris Levesque tells the Wall Street Journal. “Maybe we can find another partner.” Some U.S. artificial intelligence experts are also starting to worry that export controls may hamper their research.

A wave of my hand, a flick of my wrist. The Federal Communications Commission granted Google a waiver to test its Project Soli, an effort to create gesture-controlled devices using tiny radar arrays.

Not sitting still. Chinese transport app Didi Chuxing is branching out into financial services. The company is offering products including wealth management, credit, and lending. That seems to put Didi in competition with one of its major investors, Alibaba Group.

Fingers in the cookie jar. The European tech lobbying group Privacy International says 20 out of 34 leading apps on Android share various kinds of user data with Facebook without user permission, possibly violating the EU's General Data Protection Regulation. Apps found sharing information included Kayak, TripAdvisor, and MyFitnessPal.

Slow it down. Much hyped and powerfully-backed digital currency startup Bakkt is facing regulatory challenges and delays in launching its bitcoin futures product, crypto news site The Block reports. The startup also announced that it raised $183 million from private investors including Boston Consulting Group, the Intercontinental Exchange, Microsoft’s venture capital unit, and the fintech arm of Naspers.

Up, up, and away. China last month launched the first of a planned 156 satellites to create an Internet access service for rural parts of the country. Government-owned China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp says it aims to have its entire constellation of satellites in low Earth orbit by 2022.


It's about a year since prominent venture capitalist Shervin Pishevar left his firm due to sexual harassment allegations, and the state of the industry is improving but still far from fixed. Theodore Schleifer at Recode surveys the make up and hiring practices of Silicon Valley, with a data assist from All Raise, a nonprofit founded by Aileen Lee, which analyzes public hiring announcements. As Lee herself concludes: “There is no one-year-in high-five.”

The numbers:

American venture capital firms have added 30 new female senior investing partners in the last ten months, according to All Raise...Firms hired more women in the second quarter of this year than any quarter in at least the previous five years.

That has felt like a lot to observers. But during the same time, the industry added 68 male partners, according to All Raise. So the percentage of women in leadership roles only rose to 9.5% from 8.9%, All Raise says. About three-quarters of U.S. venture capital firms still have zero women partners. Among the 153 firms that do boast a woman partner, it’s often singular—not plural: Three-quarters of these firms only have one woman in a senior leadership position. Those are roughly the same figures as ten months ago, All Raise says.


From Meghan Markle to Mega Millions, These Were 2018's Top Google Searches By Jenna Schnuer

People Are Freaking Out About an Accidental Instagram Update By Erin Corbett

Apple's High-End iPhone Production Might Move to India By Don Reisinger

T-Mobile CEO Warns Cable Industry to Prepare for Competition By Aaron Pressman

Jack Black Wants to Be the Most Popular YouTube Gamer in the World By Laura Stampler

FCC Investigating Link Between 911 Lines Going Down Nationwide and CenturyLink's Internet Outages By Chris Morris

Advancing Both A.I. and Privacy Is Not a Zero-Sum Game By Casimir Wierzynski and Abigail Hing Wen


One of the early pioneers of computers networks and the Internet, Lawrence Roberts, died at age 81 last week. Roberts designed the Internet's precursor, Arpanet, while he worked at the Pentagon’s Advanced Research Projects Agency in the 1960s. “Larry led us to uncover potential that we never would have seen," Vint Cerf, Google’s chief internet evangelist and another key Internet pioneer, said.

This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman. Find past issues, and sign up for other Fortune newsletters.