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From Elon Musk to Jeff Bezos, these 30 personalities defined the 2010s

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The first decade of the 21st century introduced us to sweeping mobile and social revolutions largely driven by names like Jobs, Zuckerberg and Bezos. In the second , things got a little more… complicated. During those years, a new collection of faces have joined the earlier tech titans to continue moving us into the future. Here’s CNET’s list of the top technology innovators and all-around unavoidable personalities of the 2010s.

<img website class="" alt="A person wears a Guy Fawkes mask which today is a trademark and. 

In 2019, the group’s prominence has faded somewhat — last year it said it would — but concerns about hacking remain in the forefront, in part because one large collective of unknown activists put it there. 

Julian Assange of WikiLeaks during a livestreamed press conference on Thursday. CIA hacking tools described in documents released by WikiLeaks are actually a good sign, privacy experts say.Julian Assange of WikiLeaks during a livestreamed press conference on Thursday. CIA hacking tools described in documents released by WikiLeaks are actually a good sign, privacy experts say.

Julian Assange of WikiLeaks during a livestreamed press conference in 2017. 

Screenshot by CNET

Julian Assange

The founder with violating the Espionage Act). WikiLeaks started the decade by publishing documents obtained by between 2010 and 2011, and after he sought refuge in Russia in 2013. To avoid extradition to Sweden on charges of rape — the charges , but the case — Assange in London, where he remained for seven years. 

Despite its founder being stuck in the same building for much of the decade, WikiLeaks still managed to play a role in the 2016 US presidential election by that were detrimental to Hillary Clinton and the next year releasing thousands of documents . The Assange saga is far from over, though. In 2019 he was by the Ecuadorian government and arrested by London police. He remains in British custody and could be extradited to the US.

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GM CEO Mary Barra says the self-driving technology can help relieve driver stress.


Mary Barra

The CEO became the first woman to lead a major SpeedyPaper Discount carmaker when she took over in 2014 and has been consistently ranked among the world’s most powerful women over the past decade by and . 

Her tenure has been marked by GM’s push to keep u into the mainstream. The actually brought a sub-$40,000 EV to market ahead of , and GM has also to help ensure it stays relevant in the future. 

Under Barra, GM is also one of just two global businesses to completely do away with its gender pay gap, .

Jeff Bezos on stage in 2018Jeff Bezos on stage in 2018

Bezos speaking at an Amazon press event in 2018.

James Martin/CNET

Jeff Bezos

Even after in April, Bezos remains the world’s richest person, worth more than $107 billion as of this month, . Throughout the decade, he spread his money around,  the Washington Post in 2013 and growing his company phenomenally. Amazon is now a vast empire that’s not only become the world’s warehouse, but t, , the , the grocery chain and a meant to give Elon Musk and SpaceX some competition. Its delivers goods in hours, and serves up a huge gallery of movies, T over its increasing expansion into homes. And the company continues over working conditions and pay for its employees.

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danah boyddanah boyd

danah boyd

danah boyd

She may not be a household name, but danah boyd (who prefers to spell her name with lowercase) has become a leading thinker and researcher on the effects of technology on society and our children. In her 2014 book It’s Complicated, that social media provides for youth to express themselves and to engage with each other and with society. 

She’s also a and has broadened her research to focus on the relationship between social inequality and technology through her research institute . In awarding her its , the Electronic Frontier Foundation called boyd a “trailblazing technology scholar.”

Richard Branson at a Virgin Mobile eventRichard Branson at a Virgin Mobile event

Richard Branson at a Virgin Mobile event.

Josh Miller/CNET

Richard Branson

The is willing to try just about anything, it seems. Bran transport technology and is working on , which could launch satellites using a combination of rockets and a high-altitude launcher plane. In the coming months, may  (including Branson himself) into orbit using a similar approach from the New Mexico desert. 

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Kimberly Bryant

By 2040, there will be 1 million more young women of color with coding skills if Kimberly Bryant meets her ambitious goal. The electrical engineer and Vanderbilt grad founded in 2011 with the goal of reaching 1 million girls by midcentury. That could transform places like Silicon Valley, where only 2% of women working in tech are people of color, from the . Bryant’s work has been widely recognized — by the White House, the Smithsonian and others — helping to bring in funding for the mission and increasing the chances that the next Steve Jobs is a woman of color. 

Mark Cuban at CNET's Next Big Thing panel at CES 2013Mark Cuban at CNET's Next Big Thing panel at CES 2013

Mark Cuban at CNET’s Next Big Thing panel at CES 2013

Josh Miller/CNET

Mark Cuban

During the 2010s, Cuban became much more than just one of the billionaires from the original dot-com boom of the late 1990s. He completed his crossover to become a major figure in the worlds of sports, entertainment and even politics. 

Cuban’s riches can be traced to successful exits from old, old-school internet properties like, but he’s since leveraged those early moves into a career as an NBA franchise owner, a TV personality (most notably on ) and an investor in dozens of companies including Dropbox, Magnolia Pictures and Alyssa’s Cookies. He was even floated as a potential presidential candidate in 2016 and 2020, but says he . 

Tim Cook on stage at WWDC 2019Tim Cook on stage at WWDC 2019

Tim Cook at WWDC 2019.

James Martin still rules the mobile roost alongside Android, and under his guidance the company has launched forays into areas like the , , and even finance with the . 

While it might be a stretch to call Cook a gay icon (he ), he’s certainly one of the most powerful LGBTQ people in the world, and his worldview has informed his drive to make Apple more ethical, diverse and values-driven, .

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Susan Fowler at the Women Transforming Technology conferenceSusan Fowler at the Women Transforming Technology conference

Susan Fowler at the Women Transforming Technology conference

Stephen Shankland/CNET

Susan Fowler

The #MeToo movement swept through the tech world and other industries beginning in 2017, thanks in large part to chronicling sexual harassment and abuse within Uber, where she worked as a software engineer. The fallout resulted in a and the demotion of founder and CEO Travis Kalanick. Fowler’s memoir, Whisteblower, is due out in 2020, and she has a new role writing for the New York Times opinion section. 

Bill and Melinda Gates

This power couple has taken the money that Bill made producing the software suites we all love to complain about and turned it into a philanthropic empire. The $50 billion Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has poured millions into global health and development efforts, as well as education in the US. in a drastic reduction of the child mortality rate, saving over 100 million lives. Bill has also stayed relevant through the reading lists he releases regularly, and with a book about empowering women around the world. 

Elizabeth Holmes in a still from the movie The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon ValleyElizabeth Holmes in a still from the movie The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley

Elizabeth Holmes in a still from The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley.


Elizabeth Holmes

Like (real name: David Kim Stanley) almost two decades earlier, Holmes serves as a cautionary tale for what can go wrong when the hype becomes unmoored from reality in tech. 

In the span of a few years, and a never-quite-ready-for-primetime blood-testing technology from a subject of interest to one of investment, investigation and now, potentially Holmes’ own incarceration as she faces . 

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