News roundup: World Wide Web source code to be auctioned, UK regulators to probe Apple and Google, US prepares big tech laws, and more

A round-up of this week’s technology news, including a UK antitrust probe into Apple and Google, the auction of the world wide web’s source code, new US laws to curb the dominance of big tech companies, and more.


Source code of World Wide Web to be auctioned

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the British inventor famed for creating the World Wide Web, is to sell its original source code as a non-fungible token (NFT).

According to a report by the Evening Standard, people will have an opportunity to bid on three-decade-old source code documents for the web in an auction run by Sotheby’s next week.

With bids starting at $1000, the listing will include four items in total. These include an original archive of the source code, an animated visualization of the code, a digital poster of the code, and a letter about the process behind creating the web penned by Berners-Lee.

The proceeds of the auction, scheduled to kick off on June 23rd, will go to good causes selected by Berners-Lee and his wife.

He said: “Three decades ago, I created something which, with the subsequent help of a huge number of collaborators across the world, has been a powerful tool for humanity. For me, the best bit about the web has been the spirit of collaboration.

“While I do not make predictions about the future, I sincerely hope its use, knowledge and potential will remain open and available to us all to continue to innovate, create and initiate the next technological transformation, that we cannot yet imagine.

“NFTs, be they artworks or a digital artefact like this, are the latest playful creations in this realm, and the most appropriate means of ownership that exists. They are the ideal way to package the origins behind the web.”

UK regulators to probe Apple and Google

Apple and Google are to face an investigation into their dominant grip on the smartphone industry in the UK, as reported by the BBC.

On Tuesday, the UK Competition and Markets Authority announced that it would be probing the “effective duopoly” of both major American tech giants.

In particular, the regulatory body will find out if the dominance of the iOS and Android mobile operating systems, the App Store and Google Play Store, and the Safari and Chrome web browsers is “resulting in consumers losing out across a wide range of areas”.

Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of the CMA, said in a statement: “Apple and Google control the major gateways through which people download apps or browse the web on their mobiles – whether they want to shop, play games, stream music or watch TV.

“We’re looking into whether this could be creating problems for consumers and the businesses that want to reach people through their phones.”

US cracks down on big tech

In another blow to big tech, US lawmakers have unveiled a raft of new bills geared towards curtailing the power currently exhibited by the world’s biggest technology companies.

According to a report by Reuters, the laws were unveiled by bipartisan members of the US House of Representatives last Friday and could one day result in the break-up of major technology firms.

Three of the five laws would place specific restrictions on big tech companies, including preventing companies from controlling subsidiaries on their digital platforms that are in direct competition with other firms; banning preferential treatment to self-developed products listed on digital platforms they own; and preventing acquisitions of businesses that compete with their digital platforms. A fourth law would enable users of digital platforms to ask tech companies to move their data if they were to sign up to a competitor. And a fifth law would provide the US Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission with more resources to probe mergers and acquisitions made by big tech companies.

Pramila Jayapal, a Democratic US representative and a sponsor of the bill, said:  "From Amazon and Facebook to Google and Apple, it is clear that these unregulated tech giants have become too big to care.”

Smartphone industry to enjoy growth

The global smartphone industry is set to expand by 12% in 2021, even though an international shortage of semiconductors has slowed down the production of electrical products.

According to new statistics from technology market research firm Canalys, smartphone shipments are on course to reach 1.4 billion units this year.

Last year, smartphone shipments decreased by 7% as a result of the market challenges of the coronavirus pandemic. But while the smartphone market has rebounded over the past few months, Canalys noted that “component supply will emerge as the new bottleneck” for the sector.

Ben Stanton, research manager at Canalys, said: “Smartphones are vital for keeping people connected and entertained, and they’re just as important inside the home as outside.

“In some parts of the world, people have been unable to spend money on holidays and days out in recent months, and many have spent their disposable income on a new smartphone instead.”

EU and US team up for new tech alliance

The European Union and the United States have formed a technology alliance that aims to tackle major issues such as the global shortage of electrical chips.

According to a report by the BBC, the new EU-US alliance will be named the Trade and Technology Alliance. Two of its main objectives will be to create shared standards for emerging technologies and counter the growing technical might of China. Additionally, the EU and the US will work together on “rebalancing of global supply chains in semiconductors”.

The new alliance will also operate working groups addressing key areas such as artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, climate, green technology, as well as information and communications technology security.

Security roundup

  • Law enforcement officials in the Republic of Ireland will be given the power to ask people to provide their device passwords in order to assist with investigations, as reported by the Independent. If someone is asked to do this by Irish police and doesn’t comply with the order, they could face hefty fines of up to €30,000.
  • NHS Test and Trace has enlisted the support of IT security company Risk Ledger to boost its cyber defenses. The partnership will equip the NHS service with the tools required for mitigating supply chain security risks. Matt Warman MP, minister for digital Infrastructure, said: “The government is working tirelessly to secure the nation online and grow the UK's £8.9 billion cybersecurity industry as we build back better from the pandemic. We're helping SMEs develop innovative products and services and it's great to see Risk Ledger, one of the firms we've supported, win this contract to protect the Test and Trace system and support the national effort against coronavirus.”
  • US tech giant Apple has rolled out a security update for two recently discovered zero-day vulnerabilities, as reported by IT Pro. The vulnerabilities were being exploited by cybercriminals and allowed them to perform remote code execution. They affected Apple’s browser engine, WebKit, and have now been fixed in iOS 12.5.3.
  • Nearly half of business leaders say their firm has witnessed an increased number of network security attacks during the coronavirus pandemic, according to new research from Telia Carrier. Worryingly, 78% of leaders have had to deal with 100 network security incidents over the past year. As a result of growing network security threats, 60% of leaders have increased spending on cybersecurity protections since the pandemic started in 2020.
  • Bristol-based cybersecurity education provider Immersive Labs has completed a $75 million Series C funding round, which was led by Insight Partners, Menlo Ventures, Citi Ventures and Goldman Sachs Asset Management. According to the firm, the funding will allow it to speed up the delivery of its new cyber workplace optimisation platform. James Hadley, CEO and founder of Immersive Labs, said: “This investment will allow us to add new analytical capabilities and content to provide a more detailed picture of skills across the growing breadth and depth of cyber exposure facing organizations, helping them measure and manage risk better.”

M&A roundup

Cybersecurity firm Forcepoint has announced it’s to acquire UK-based threat removal platform Deep Secure in an undisclosed deal. When the acquisition is completed in August 2021, Forcepoint plans to integrate Deep Secure’s software into its cross-domain solutions portfolio. 

Uberall, which develops “near-me” marketing SaaS solutions, has secured a cash injection of $115 million from Bregal Milestone, Level Equity, United Internet and Uberall management. The firm will use these funds to aid its expansion across the US and Canada. Additionally, it’s entered a definitive agreement to purchase proximity search optimisation specialists MomentFeed. Uberall said it will “manage the online presence of 1.35 million business locations” after forming a combined business with MomentFeed.

Digital services provider Sapphire Systems has acquired Opal Wave, a provider of SAP enterprise performance management, cloud analytics and SAP HANA platform solutions. Sapphire Systems said the acquisition will allow it to expand its EPM, business intelligence and cloud analytics capabilities, while accelerating the growth and scalability of Opal Wave. 

Pharmatech company Exscientia has confirmed it’s to acquire artificial intelligence-based precision medicine specialists Allcyte. Exscientia hopes that the deal will support the growth of its “translational capabilities by enabling high content evaluation of individual patient biology in primary tumour tissues, rather than artificial cell lines or animal models”.

Windows 10 to come to the end of its life in 2025

Microsoft has announced that it will no longer support Windows 10 from 2025, which will be ten years after the operating system was originally announced.

On October 14 2025, Microsoft will cease the release of software updates and security fixes for both the Home and Pro versions of Windows 10.

Despite saying Windows 10 would be the last iteration of the popular operating system at its launch in 2015, Microsoft has since revealed that it’s working on the “most significant updates” to Windows in years.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella teased the upcoming release of Windows 11 at Microsoft Build 2021, which took place last month. The Verge reported him as saying: “Soon we will share one of the most significant updates to Windows of the past decade to unlock greater economic opportunity for developers and creators. I’ve been self-hosting it over the past several months, and I’m incredibly excited about the next generation of Windows.”

He added: “Our promise to you is this: we will create more opportunity for every Windows developer today and welcome every creator who is looking for the most innovative, new, open platform to build and distribute and monetize applications. We look forward to sharing more very soon.”

5G subscriptions to surpass half a billion in 2021

The demand for next-generation mobile technology is continuing to grow exponentially, with 5G subscriptions set to top 580 million before the year is out.

According to a new report by Swedish telecoms giant Ericsson, this growth is being fueled by the one million new 5G mobile subscriptions being registered daily.

Ericsson claims that 5G is on course to “become the fastest adopted mobile generation”, expecting 3.5 billion5G subscriptions and 60% 5G population coverage by 2026.

But while the adoption of 5G is quickly increasing, this fluctuates by region. Europe, for instance, lags behind regions like China, the US,  Korea and Japan.

Fredrik Jejdling, executive vice president and head of networks at Ericsson, said: “This landmark twentieth edition of the Ericsson Mobility Report shows that we are in the next phase of 5G, with accelerating roll-outs and coverage expansion in pioneer markets such as China, the USA and South Korea.

“Now is the time for advanced use cases to start materializing and deliver on the promise of 5G. Businesses and societies are also preparing for a post-pandemic world, with 5G-powered digitalization playing a critical role.”