Compelling technology stories in 2014 could be told through some of the numbers behind them.
$19 billion: The amount in cash and stock that Facebook shelled out in February to acquire the messaging service WhatsApp. As we pointed out at the time, though, the deal doesn’t look so costly if it’s viewed in terms of the value per user.
$40 billion: The value of the ride-summoning service Uber. Whether or not the company is worth that much, it does have an innovative, if controversial, pricing model.
55 percent: Proportion of the supposedly secure servers on Alexa’s list of the million most widely used websites that were vulnerable to a two-year-old vulnerability in the widely used encryption software library known as OpenSSL, including 44 of the top 100. When the flaw was found this year, many website operators scrambled to address the vulnerability, but patching efforts seemed to stall just months after the initial discovery, and hundreds of thousands of devices could still be vulnerable.
4.5 million: Number of members in the hospital network Community Health Systems whose personally identifiable information was accessible by hackers exploiting a security bug known as Heartbleed. The security company Websense reported that hacks on hospitals had risen 600 percent during the preceding six months.
2030: The year in which China promises its greenhouse-gas emissions will peak. Just a few years ago it was unclear when China’s emissions, which have risen 257 percent since 1990, would ever stop rising. But a slowing economy and policies meant to address urban air pollution have slowed growth in demand for coal, and a nationwide carbon trading system is expected to come online in 2016. Recent research suggests that China’s coal use could peak sometime between 2020 and 2025. In November the U.S. and China came to a landmark agreement on addressing climate change.
301 million: The number of smartphones shipped worldwide in the third quarter, a 20 percent increase from the same period in 2013. That’s according to Gartner, which says smartphones now account for two-thirds of the world’s mobile-phone market and predicts that in three years nine out of 10 mobile phones bought will be smartphones.
24 percent: Samsung’s global share of the mobile-phone market in the third quarter. That was down from 32 percent a year earlier, as new competitors got more aggressive. Xiaomi in China and Micromax in India are finding increasing success both at home and abroad.
$25: The cost of storing the data from one genome each year with Google Genomics. For years we’ve been talking about the quickly falling cost of sequencing; now cloud services like Google’s could be a boon for clinicians and scientists looking to explore many genomes at once. Expect more endeavors on the scale of the one announced this summer by the British government, which plans to sequence 100,000 genomes—the largest national sequencing effort to date.
4.4 zettabytes: The amount (which can also be expressed as 4.4 billion terabytes) of all digital information in the world, according to a report published by the International Data Corporation at the start of the year. The figure was growing by around 40 percent per year.