Shawn Lim
Dec 19, 2023

Year in Review: The biggest tech stories of 2023

TikTok's day in US Congress, Alibaba makes leadership changes, Temu takes on Shein and the Adobe-Figma union failed to go through - we recap some of the biggest headlines in tech in 2023.

Year in Review: The biggest tech stories of 2023

Tech platforms dominated the headlines today and not all for the good reasons. From TikTok Shop being banned in Indonesia to Google’s ongoing lawsuit with the US Department of Justice for its adtech practices, it was an eventful 2023. 

Scroll below for Campaign's round-up of biggest tech stories that dominated news headlines in 2023.

1. The rise and rise of generative AI

China became the first country to publish rules and regulate the generative AI industry in August.

Since then companies like Silicon Intelligence and Xiaoice as well as Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu, and JD have introduced AI-generated livestream services this year.

These services enable brands on their platforms to create their own AI streamers, with highly realistic avatars and voices, while human creators are asleep. 

China's TikTok equivalent, Douyin is taking a slightly different stance compared to other tech giants, focusing on transparency. In a policy document released in May, Douyin stated that all AI-generated videos must be clearly marked as such, and virtual influencers should be managed by real people.  

The platform traditionally prohibits the use of pre-recorded videos in livestreams. AI-generated livestreaming, which doesn't use recorded footage but also requires minimal real-time human involvement, presents a unique challenge to this rule. 

2. TikTok faces Congressional fire

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testified before hostile lawmakers in the US Congress in March 2023 following an ultimatum from the Biden administration for TikTok parent company ByteDance to sell the app or potentially face a ban in the US.  

The request was issued due to concerns about how TikTok handles user data and shares it with its Chinese parent company. The Biden administration and lawmakers raised the concerns because even though TikTok has repeatedly denied that US data flows to China, investigations have shown otherwise.  

Buzzfeed reported that engineers in China regularly accessed US data. A former TikTok risk manager has also suggested that US data may still be exposed under TikTok's proposed plan to improve security. 

3. TikTok-Tokopedia tangle

TikTok also faced headwinds closer to home when Indonesia decided to regulate social commerce in the country, banning the platform from allowing vendors to sell their products while livestreaming on TikTok. 

Over two months after the ban, TikTok announced it would invest $840 million to own 25% of the Indonesian e-commerce platform Tokopedia. The deal will see Tokopedia acquire exclusive rights to run TikTok Shop in Indonesia for $340 million. 

TikTok will also give Tokopedia $1 billion to spend on working capital. The deal is for a total package of $1.5 billion and is set to close in Q1 2024

4. Alibaba's surprise shuffle, Daniel Zhang exits amid business restructre

As Alibaba struggles to bounce back post-Covid, the platform announced in June that a new chairman and chief executive will replace Daniel Zhang, who was moved to become the head of Alibaba's Cloud Intelligence Group. 

In a surprise move of his own, Zhang resigned in September just before handing over the chairman role to Joseph Tsai and the CEO role to Eddie Wu.  

Wu will also serve as acting chairman and CEO of Alibaba Cloud Intelligence Group and continue overseeing Taobao and Tmall Group since it decided to split its business into six units

5. Fast fashion feud takes legal runway

Fast fashion platform Temu has sued its rival Shein for employing aggressive and unethical tactics to suppress ultra-fast fashion industry competition. 

According to Temu's legal complaint, Shein is accused of pressuring suppliers into exclusivity using intimidation and fear tactics. The lawsuit details incidents where Shein allegedly detained suppliers' representatives for extended periods in its offices and confiscated their mobile phones during meetings under false pretences. Temu claims that these actions are part of Shein's strategy to force suppliers into signing exclusive agreements with them. 

Furthermore, the lawsuit accuses Shein of initiating baseless legal actions against Temu for copyright infringement. It portrays Shein as a dominant player exerting monopoly power in the ultra-fast fashion sector within the U.S. market.  

In response to these allegations, a spokesperson for Shein has dismissed the lawsuit as baseless, stating that the company intends to defend itself against these claims robustly. 

This is not the first time a fast fashion competitor has sued Shein. The platform is facing a lawsuit by H&M in Hong Kong for copyright infringement.

6. Google on trial

Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai departs federal court on October 30, 2023 in Washington, DC. Pichai testified on Monday to defend his company in the largest antitrust case since the 1990s. The U.S. government is seeking to prove that Alphabet's Google Inc. maintains an illegal monopoly in the online search business. The trial is expected to last into November. (Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Like TikTok, Google also spent a considerable amount of time in the courts in 2023 after the the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) brought a federal antitrust case against the platform.

The suit focused on Google’s role in adtech after it acquired DoubleClick, Invite Media, and AdMeld in the 2000s. Google's adtech division was the company's second-largest business behind Google Search by 2021, generating approximately $31.7 billion in revenue. 

During the proceedings, some interesting information emerged. For example, an internal Apple slide deck was entered as an exhibit into the case when Apple's senior vice president of services, Eddy Cue testified in September. 

Cue told the court that Apple made a $18 to $20 billion deal with Google to make the search giant default on Apple products, even though it had reservations about Google tracking users, because there were no alternative search engines. 

7. Microsoft levels up with Activision Blizzard acquisition

Microsoft’s plans to buy Activision Blizzard in a deal valued at $68.7 billion was completed by October 2023 after it was announced in 2022.  

After the acquisition, Activision Blizzard was integrated into Microsoft's gaming division, which already has Xbox Game Studios and ZeniMax Media.  

The move expanded Microsoft's gaming portfolio to include a range of popular titles from Activision, Blizzard Entertainment, and King, such as Call of Duty, Crash Bandicoot, Spyro, Warcraft, StarCraft, Diablo, Overwatch, and Candy Crush. 

Activision Blizzard is a significant player in the gaming industry, boasting revenues of approximately $8.8 billion in 2021. The company encompasses several divisions: Activision Publishing, Blizzard Entertainment, King, Major League Gaming, and Activision Blizzard Studios.

8. Meta's costly breach

Meta was hit with a record €1.2 billion ($1.3 billion) fine for breaching the European Union’s privacy law by transferring user data to the U.S. Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC) ruling also requires Meta’s Facebook to suspend data transfers from the E.U. to the U.S. The order applies only to Facebook, not Meta’s other social platforms, and it has at least five months to comply. 

9. Adobe-Figma fallout

Adobe has cancelled its proposed $20 billion acquisition of Figma, a cloud-based design platform. The deal was first announced in September 2022. 

The decision came after Adobe determined there was no feasible way to obtain antitrust clearance in Europe and the UK. This acquisition, one of the largest in the software startup sector, had been under intense regulatory scrutiny due to concerns about the consolidation of market power by major tech companies and the potential stifling of emerging competitors. 

The deal involved a combination of cash and stock. Adobe has agreed to pay a $1 billion termination fee to Figma. Based in San Francisco, Figma's web-based platform is widely used for design and collaborative brainstorming by various companies, including Uber, Coinbase, and Zoom Video Communications. 

Campaign Asia

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