What a crazy year 2010 was for technology. Facebook’s CEO was named Time’s Person of the Year, the iPad hit the market in a big way, and location-based services took off. As we’ve been snuggled in for the holiday season and tossing back some libations with friends and family, we wanted to have a look back at what stoked people’s interests or got us freaked out in 2010.
Facebook: The Social Networking Beast
The hugely popular social networking site continued its meteoric growth in 2010, with the number of users crossing the half-billion mark. A movie loosely documenting its humble beginnings was released; Mark Zuckerberg was named Time’s Person of the Year (the dude’s only 26!); and it’s the gold-standard for social media platforms. Pretty heady stuff for a company that was founded just six years ago and had its roots as a way to check out your college classmates’ pictures and see where the eye candy’s at.
However, with this spectacular growth came heightened media scrutiny and shrill criticism from privacy advocates. It also became a tastier target for hackers and other evildoers. Despite these privacy and security issues, Facebook continues to be the platform of choice for third-party developers. To its credit, Facebook has listened to user feedback and has responded accordingly. That’s the beautiful thing about an open Internet that Zuckerberg likes to preach. Word travels fast, which can be both a blessing and a curse. And so far, his congregation is filled with believers.
Location-Based Services: I Know Where You Are (and Where You’re Not)
Thieves have got to absolutely love the booming popularity of location-based services, such as Foursquare, Gowalla, and Facebook Places. Marrying smartphones with GPS technology has spawned sites that let users “check in” wherever they’re at, notifying all their friends of their exact location at that moment in time. Great concept if your friends that you’re telling are truly your friends. Not a good concept if you’ve got folks on your “friends list” that shouldn’t be there or you’ve got the wrong privacy settings enabled on your smartphone, essentially giving a green light to applications like Foursquare to share your information with unauthorized folks. Yikes. Better make sure you hide that family-heirloom Rolex reeeeeeal gooood.
Collective Buying: Power in Numbers
The tough economic times of these last couple years means that bargain-hunting has become the norm for many of us. Enter Groupon and LivingSocial - a couple of sites that aspire to give the best deal on a broad range of products and services. The key to their success is scrounging up the minimum number of persons to partake in a deal. Once that threshold is crossed, everyone in the “group” gets that product or service at a great price. If the quorum’s not met, no deal for you (thank you, Soup Nazi).
iPod, iPhone, iPad, iCha-ching
Aside from the dropped calls you (allegedly) get if you hold a 4G iPhone with the bottom half of your left palm, held at a 27 degree angle, with partly sunny skies, and your mother-in-law is in town, Apple can do no wrong. Hard to believe this company was on its deathbed in the mid-1990s (for those of you who can remember). Now, if Steve decides to stick an “i” in front of its next product, run out and buy some Apple stock that day. The iPad is the latest Apple offering that it really didn’t invent but has marketed better than everyone else (both past and present). Now, if Steve could just figure out a way to outdo the Most Interesting Man in the World, then he may just be worthy of his deity status. (Norv’s boss would like you to know that these are his opinions and she makes no comment about buying stock or Steve’s deity status.)
Boxy but Good
People used to say this about Volvos. Not the sexiest car around, but they were reliable and were safe. The same can be said for the regulations starting to pop up now to address the social media phenomenon. People normally get a little drowsy when they hear or see the word “regulation,” but it’s one of those necessary evils.
Many industries, such as financial services, energy, and healthcare, are turning to social media to market their products and services and extend their brand reach. However, it was only a matter of time before the regulatory bodies started to catch up. Case in point: the financial services industry issued FINRA Regulatory Notice 10-06 in January 2010 to provide guidance on what brokerage firms and its representatives are and are not permitted to do with respect to social media. And you can bet your bottom dollar/euro/pound that other industries will soon follow suit (we’re actually already starting to see this happen).
Social Media’s Playing with the Big Boys Now
When social networking first hit the scene, it was all about the hipsters and Generation Y’ers. It was supposed to be a fad, limited to folks with too much time on their hands. Well, I think it’s safe to say it’s here to stay. Corporate types are on-board, real money is being generated, and your grandmother might even have a Facebook account.
The bigger issue is, “how can companies utilize social media safely without having it blow up in their faces, like what happened to Domino’s in 2009?” This past year saw organizations, big and small, kick the tires and see what they could do with social media. They also poked around to see what kinds of controls, if any, were available from technology vendors. Just all part of the maturation process of a communications channel that promises to bring more excitement and innovation in 2011.
The above are just my musings on trends in 2010. What were the biggie ones you saw this past year? And don’t worry, you’ll still get your soup.