We’re a few days into a new calendar year, but that doesn’t mean 2017 is gone for good—the best writing will stay relevant for years to come. Last year may not have been the smoothest year in Silicon Valley (or anywhere, for that matter), and certainly 2018 has arrived with a laundry list of grievances against the tech giants whose once-fluffed, regulation-free cushions are quickly thinning beneath them. But innovation continued just the same. 2017 was the year augmented reality revealed its promise in the form of iPhone apps and a revived interest in glasses; artificial intelligence crept into every corner of society (religion no exception); and we as users collectively began to hold Silicon Valley and its algorithms accountable. These are the themes that fascinated us most and, we’re delighted to report, the stories you read most. To both celebrate and reflect on the year behind us, here are 2017’s most-read Backchannel stories, arranged chronologically.
The Inside Story of BitTorrent’s Bizarre Collapse
How a group of valley outsiders blew through the company’s cash and nearly left it for dead.
—Jessi Hempel (January 11, 2017)
How I Got My Attention Back
Technology is commanding our attention in infinite, insurmountable loops. A country trip off-grid helped one writer escape.
—Craig Mod (January 13, 2017)
One Woman’s Brilliant “**** You” To Wikipedia Trolls
A young editor withstood a decade of online abuse. Then she started fighting back—on Wikipedia itself.
—Andrew McMillen (February 6, 2017)
Inside Facebook’s AI Machine
The Applied Machine Learning group helps Facebook see, talk, and understand. It may even root out fake news.
—Steven Levy (February 23, 2017)
Love In the Time of Cryptography
Most romances today have deep digital footprints. This one didn’t—and to the state, that was a problem.
—Quinn Norton (April 3, 2017)
Our Machines Now Have Knowledge We’ll Never Understand
Artificial intelligence is making the limits of human knowledge painfully obvious.
— David Weinberger (April 18, 2017)
Google Glass 2.0 Is a Startling Second Act
The trendy-creepy glasses flopped. Then the tech giant realized that the future of wearables was in factories and warehouses.
—Steven Levy (July 18, 2017)
Bill Joy Finds the Jesus Battery
The green-tech guru is backing an energy storage breakthrough that could power the future.
—Steven Levy (August 16, 2017)
The Solar Eclipse Is Coming—Here’s Exactly When It’ll Happen
How can you calculate when exactly a solar eclipse will happen? A multimillenium tale of computation days before North America’s big event.
—Stephen Wolfram (August 19 , 2017)
This Big Beef Exposes The Ugly Underbelly of Vegan Vlogging
The Vegan Cheetah reveled in being a bully. Then, one of his harassment targets took him to court.
—Roni Jacobson (August 23, 2017)
Why WeWork Thinks It’s Worth $20 Billion
It’s not about the free coffee or sappy slogans. It’s about selling data on how work happens.
—Jessi Hempel (September 6, 2017)
God Is a Bot, and Anthony Levandowski Is His Messenger
AI is this engineer’s religion. But it’s his all-too-human behavior that sits at the heart of Waymo’s lawsuit against Uber.
—Mark Harris (September 27, 2017)
Inside Tesla’s Secret Second Floor
Tesla’s former VP of production revealed why you shouldn’t be afraid to build your own products.
—Greg Reichow (October 18, 2017)
The First First Impression of the iPhone X
Backchannel was the very first tech publication to get its hands on Apple’s most anticipated product in years.
—Steven Levy (November 1, 2017)
Inside the First Church of Artificial Intelligence
The engineer at the heart of the Uber/Waymo lawsuit is serious about his AI religion. Welcome to Anthony Levandowski’s Way of the Future.
—Mark Harris (November 15, 2017)
Ajit Pai’s Shell Game
If we treat the net like the utility it is, we’ll get neutrality and more. Just look at Wilson, North Carolina.
—Susan Crawford (November 29, 2017)
Techies Still Think They’re the Good Guys. They’re Not.
Silicon Valley is slow to come to terms with the fact that it’s become the new Wall Street.
—Erin Griffith (December 16, 2017)