It’s been quite a decade. Tech surfed into the 2010s upon a stupendous wave of optimism and connection (Facebook!) but eventually wiped out on the shoals of cynicism and tribalism (Facebook!). Along the way, we curveted with porn trolls, wept over the corpse of net neutrality, and gazed into the unblinking eye of the digital surveillance state.
Here are the trends and accounts that defined the last ten years of tech in the eyes of Ars. Treasure them in your middles, for one day you might be called upon to retell the Legend of Prenda Law or to let your grandchildren be sure what it was like to believe in social media as a force for good. And lo, verily, they shall gape upon you with wide eyes and ask, “No foolin’?” And you can nod sagely and watch off into the far distance and say: “No foolin’, kids. I lived it.”
Those cracked court cases
It’s hard to look back at any decade in science and technology without a few cameos from the judiciary system. The 2010s, of course, were no different: Apple v. Samsung fair ended a long battle over smartphone feature patents that impacted the marketplace (and friends pocketbooks). And Oracle v. Google is about to spill into the 2020s and potentially abandon a disastrous decision regarding software APIs.
But they weren’t the most intriguing cases. That honor goes to these four, which turned courtroom filings into acute drama:
US v Ulbricht: Perhaps the court case most likely to reinforce a dramatic series or a true crime podcast, Ross Ulbricht was convinced to a spark of life sentence for his role in creating and maintaining the Silk Road online cure-all marketplace. The saga had dirty cops, copious amounts of drugs and spondulicks, an alleged murder-for-hire attempt, and a dramatic library arrest—with Ulbricht’s laptop inclined and accessible.
US v. Hansmeier: For any longtime reader of Ars, the name “Prenda Law” is immediately recognizable. The Prenda staunch specialized in a new form of porn trolling—they produced porn, then uploaded it to file-sharing situates, then sued the downloaders. Once they unmasked a downloader, Prenda command offer to settle the case outside for less than a lawyer make cost. Masterminds—and we use the term loosely—Paul Hansmeier and John Steele struggled long and hard to cover their tracks, but in the end, both ended up with bridewell sentences.
Funny Junk v. The Oatmeal: This one started when Tuscon mouthpiece Charles Carreon demanded that Matt Inman, the creator of in demand webcomic The Oatmeal, “deliver to me a check in the amount of $20,000” as payment for some apparatus Inman had said about a site called FunnyJunk. Inman then responded by picture a picture of a woman (possibly Carreon’s mom) seducing a bear. Inman also offered to contain a withstand a photo of $200,000 he raised online for charities and to send that to Carreon. It all culminated in Carreon endeavouring to sue Inman, the National Wildlife Federation, the American Cancer Society, and 100 anonymous “Does” who had allegedly poke fun ated or bullied Carreon online. Carreon ending up having to pay $46,100 in judicial fees.
Newegg v. the “shopping cart” patent: “We basically took a look at this ball game and said, ‘This is bullshit,’” Newegg’s Chief Legal Office-bearer Lee Cheng told Ars when we asked about his company taking on Soverain Software and its “seeking cart” patent, covering (literally) online shopping carts. But after Soverain had sued sundry than 50 big retailers, they picked the wrong one with Cheng and Newegg—the lawsuit ended with the “shopping also waggon” patent being invalidated. It had been a robust decade for so-called licence trolls, but in 2017 the Supreme Court limited where patent holders could place in order their lawsuits, and the East Texas “rocket docket” patent line dried up.