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Our Favorite Tech Buzzwords of 2019

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Published:December 30, 2019
Last Modified:July 20, 2022

With 2019 coming to an end, the Tragic team has been discussing how to reflect on an eventful year. We quickly settled on sharing our favorite buzzwords of 2019.

Let the fun begin!

Our Favorite Tech Buzzwords of 2019

#1 AR & VR

Buzzword: Since the rise of Snapchat, every consumer app under the sun has tried to create an augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR) angle. Do we even need to mention the number of Snapchat clones or that Magic Leap continues to raise money with no clear plan in sight? Get it? It's a vision pun.

Actual Use: There are legitimate current uses for AR & VR, including Microsoft's Hololens in industrial settings, augmenting specialized tasks like surgery, or providing enhanced retail experiences. And while the new Oculus Quest makes a big leap in both technology and cost, most people talking about AR & VR are a bit premature. Many of the current applications of AR are more of a gimmick than a new user experience, and VR is not a fully viable medium as deep consumer adoption is still several years out.

#2 Chatbots

Buzzword: Apparently in 2019, we discovered that every single product category needs a chatbot. A chatbot for dating, for finance, for food delivery, for online shopping, for everything! If you want to seem trendy, don't worry about improving your product or modernizing your tech stack – just hack together a quick chatbot!

Actual Use: Chatbots have a legitimate use, for example, helping a site visitor when your team is not in the office. That said, chatbots are only a single modality – they should not replace your support team or standard forms of contact like email, phone calls, and self-help guides on your website. If I want to talk to a *real* person right now, I should be able too!

#3 Decoupled / Headless

Buzzword: Throughout the year, we have heard a lot of people talk about this buzzword in places where it doesn't really make sense. Everything cannot, and should not be, 'decoupled' or 'headless'. Did you know that many CMS features are not available when you go headless? We know, that information contradicts the hype train!

Actual Use: There is a legitimate place to use a headless CMS; for example, if you want to build a modern stateless application experience or support multiple front ends with the same content platform. That said, just because you are using JavaScript or consuming an API in your front-end, does not mean your application is "decoupled". While it may be easier to sell "API-first decoupled system" to business leaders, let's stay honest about what we are building.

#4 Serverless

Buzzword: A discussion about "digital transformation" is not complete without talking serverless. We hear it from businesses of all sizes, from nascent startups to Fortune 500 corporations. No, serverless is not the only computing option that makes sense. No, serverless does not remove the need for DevOps. And yes, there are still servers running somewhere!

Actual Use: There is a time and place for going serverless, or using functions as a part of your backend. AWS Lambda, Azure Functions, and Google Cloud Functions are great! We use them when it's appropriate, but they cannot be the only tool in your arsenal. You can quickly rack up a huge monthly bill if you're not aware of the length of your invocations.

#5 Blockchain

Buzzword: Blockchain, disintermediation, consensus, tokenization. The buzz around blockchain is incredible. If 2018 was the year that blockchain entered public discussion, then 2019 was the year of the unnecessary blockchain startup and unwarranted initial coin offering (ICO). We do not need to pour money into every company "pivoting towards a blockchain strategy".

Actual Use: There is a place where a distributed, public ledger can be extremely beneficial and necessary. For example, in the settlement of real estate or banking transactions. That said, blockchain will not replace every other database technology. We even wrote an entire article about it!

And we could not make a list of buzzwords without having the biggest one of them all: Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML)!

The Winner: Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning

Buzzword: If you have a startup, there is a strong push towards doing "AI for x". We see this all too often. Companies that have no business talking about artificial intelligence litter their slide decks with AI. We also hear people conflate AI, ML, and data science. They are related, but not the same! If you hear someone talk about these terms interchangeably, you should run!

Actual Use: Companies that have large datasets, or a very narrow use for machine learning, might be onto something. But machine learning is still reliant on good data, and this is a huge hurdle for enterprise and startups alike trying to leverage this technology. As often is the case in tech, the details matter! Does the team have the right background to actually create machine learning algorithms? Do you have access to clean datasets needed to train the models? These the type of questions that really matter, but are hardly ever asked.


The past 12 months have been eventful to say the least. That said, we hope that 2020 has fewer tech buzzwords than 2019!

In its place, we urge businesses to focus on business outcomes, not the word of the day. There are appropriate times to leverage AR, VR, chatbots, headless infrastructure, blockchain technology, AI, and ML. Just not all at once.

If we held a game of Startup Bingo, then an AI-powered chatbot to better understand your decoupled cloud infrastructure would take the cake!

Now that you know our favorite buzzwords of 2019, what do you think the most common buzzwords of 2020 will be?


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