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The undercurrents of the future. A publication from Medium about technology and people.

Digital Life

In OneZero. More on Medium.

In the late 1970s, hackers forged a social media network using the dominant audio tech of the time — the telephone

POV: You’re a 14-year-old kid in Atlanta. It’s 1978, and the internet hasn’t been invented yet, so you mostly get your kicks over the phone. You love to call up your local radio station, WQXI, to request your favorite oldies. This time, however, the line’s been disconnected. A prerecorded message…

Hours after a baby is born, its internet presence begins — no matter what we try to do to stop it

The day after my wife delivered our first baby, a photographer knocked on the door of our hospital room and offered to take pictures. We were sleep-deprived, dazed from the realization that everything we once considered “normal” had just been smashed with a sledgehammer, and emotionally speaking, we were puddles…

Here’s what I learned DM’ing with fake copyright phishers

Every month, a couple accounts contact me on Instagram, say they work for the platform, and threaten to delete my handle unless I click on bogus URLs designed to collect my personal information. As far as I can tell, they’re after one thing: My blue check mark.

I’m decidedly…

Big Technology

What happens next with the 2 billion-plus user messaging app, and the company that runs it

When WhatsApp head Will Cathcart dialed into our call last Friday, his 2 billion user slice of the Facebook empire was in the thick of it, as usual. WhatsApp had just weathered a bungled privacy update that sent panicked users to Signal and Telegram. It was scrambling to make sense…

Going viral on Twitter feels good, but it doesn’t pay

I’ve always wondered what a viral tweet is worth, because it’s an interesting way to think about what social media is worth — and what we hope for when we post. On the one hand, social media creates a tremendous amount of value. Twitter pulled in $3.46 billion last year…

Another social network slowly backs away from political groups after the U.S. Capitol riot

Nextdoor recently stopped recommending political groups to its users, OneZero has learned. The company had not publicly disclosed this change, but confirmed it when asked on Wednesday.

“We stopped allowing political groups in the main feed in mid-January,” Nextdoor spokesperson Edie Campbell-Urban told me via email. “The change is permanent.”

Some rural residents, religious communities, and people who just like simple phones are still reliant on the vanishing network

Over the years, Mia Lipsit has innovated a number of tech workarounds to avoid buying a smartphone: She’s hacked her Kindle Fire to download Google Play (so she can use the Whole Foods app), listens to podcasts on an old iPod, and stays in touch with friends using a flip…

2020 was a big year for the internet. As Covid-19 spread worldwide and many countries descended into monthslong lockdowns, much of daily life moved online. Racial justice, mass surveillance, and America’s contentious elections took center stage, too — both online and off. Each year, the Mozilla Foundation takes the internet’s…

On forums like r/MomForAMinute, people pretend to be the family members who may be missing from others’ lives

Growing up, Laura had a tumultuous relationship with her parents, in particular her mother, who was emotionally abusive. As an adult, she would weep after every one of her mom’s visits, and in January, she began distancing herself, seeking advice through Reddit support groups for people in similar situations.


(And every other day, too)

On this particularly fraught U.S. Election Day, there are all sorts of ways to participate productively in the defense of our democracy, from casting your own ballot to encouraging others to cast theirs to working at or watching the polls. …


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