The Year in Review 2010: The Highlights Reel

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2010. What a year to end a decade. From political uncertainty in the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom, the leaking of important US documents – from Afghanistan to diplomatic cables – and even a possible upheaval of our classification system to finally allow a R18+ rating in Australia, bringing it in line with other western nations.

We got more information about the new National Broadband Network, while we also saw a big shift in the media landscape in all forms – online, on print, on radio and on television.

Here are some of the highlights of the year that was.

No more HD, Say hello to 3D

GEM, as well as 7mate and ABC News 24, were launched at the expense of a HD simulcast of the main channel.

In 2010, we saw a big shift in the media. We saw more stations pick up digital radio as a way to broadcast alternative content; and we also saw the launch of three new channels – ABC News 24, GEM and 7mate – at the expense of the HD simulcasts of the main channel, leaving many shows no longer able to be viewed in HD until the digital switchover is finished or when the stations get more spectrum.

And after a long wait, community television finally got onto the digital platform, meaning shows that target a niche are still able to broadcast in future years. They can only, and most likely will only do, broadcast one channel with no HD simulcast.

The television networks also flirted with 3D television – capitalising on the success of Avatar. Several matches of the World Cup in South Africa, and both the NRL and AFL grand finals were broadcast in 3D after ACMA gave trial licenses to broadcast on channel 40, despite the fact that a majority of Australians don’t have a 3D-capable television set.

Changing the online game-plan

Fairfax launches its online video platform. Also launched were Nine's FIXplay and Seven's PLUS7.

Our television industry have also finally caught up on the internet with the launch of their catch up services, with Seven and Nine finally releasing theirs (PLUS7 and FixPlay respectively) and Ten revamping theirs. The ABC, however, leads in the digital world with the increasing ways of getting ABC iview, such as their iPad application or on PlayStation 3, while also providing additional archived content to other services, such as Fairfax and Seven’s PLUS7 service.

We also saw the introduction of the print media changing their online and mobile strategy, with all the major newspapers offering their own iPad applications – to take advantage of the screen size and offer more content outside of their paper’s websites. And thanks to the In App Purchases in iOS 4, papers were now able to charge subscriptions to use their app – with Fairfax and News Corp’s The Australian taking full advantage.

Internationally, we saw the introduction of paywalls in order to increase revenue from dwindling subscription and advertising revenue. News Corp’s UK newspaper The Times took its site behind a paywall, charging about £2 for a week’s access, as part of an experiment to see if such a thing would work; while the New York Times announced that it would be charging frequent readers rather than those who skim through the website. Other papers have opted to offer additional content behind a subscription paywall, rather than closing their site off, while others, such as The Guardian, have opted to continue the existing model.

The Year of the Leaks

Julian Assange, founder and spokeman for Wikileaks.

2010 will no certainly be known for its leaks – most importantly, Wikileaks. The site created four of the major headlines, and used the “old” media in order to strengthen not only the credibility of the leaks but the importance of new and old media working together to deliver a scoop. The first leak, Collateral Murder, brought the attention of the media by showing the US army killing a Reuters journalist in Iraq; while the second and third leaks brought the attention of the military success and failures of the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq.

However, the final leak it released at the end of November proved to cause the most chilling aftermath. Cablegate, the release of diplomatic cables inside the US State Department, has brought on a cyber war between proponents and opponents of Wikileaks’ cause, while also some politicians and right wing media pundits calling for Julian Assange’s execution despite many of the international press, including the Australian press, calling him an icon of the free press – of publishing the hard truths. The Australian Government’s response has been a mixed bag as well, with Julia GIllard opposing of the leaks and Kevin Rudd could not care less.

But Cablegate has brought up a serious challenge in this new world: the freedom of information. Do the people have the right to know about what is happening in the world or should there still be secrets kept for the stability of the world? Should we limit the press’ voice in order to protect controversial secrets that could affect the image of a nation? The United States’ Congress is soon to be deciding on a law that would see some limitations on the press and its reporting of secrets, but is that good or bad?

All we know is Wikileaks has brought an uncertain future to the freedom of the press.

Censorship: Just that one step

Image from: gnackgnackgnack/Flickr (CC)

Back home, Stephen Conroy’s filter was put on the backburner in July – ahead of the spectacle of the election we saw in the following month. You know, that one that no one was deemed the winner and that the major political parties had to woo the four independents plus the Greens in order to form some sort of stable government.

However, that backburner was to be deferred until a review of what content was to be banned. But with the current climate, plus with the Greens and Liberals opposing of such proposal, and that the change requires an act of Parliament, don’t expect to see your internet censored anytime soon.

While 2009 was the filter, 2010 was the video games censorship regime – and the proponents and the opponents got equal media share in trying to get their views across. While the biggest opponent, former South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson, was no longer the biggest threat after resigning as the state’s Attorney General (despite a successful re-election campaign) – changes in the political landscape, including the dismissal of the Victorian Labor government (whose attorney-general was a big supporter of an R18+ game rating) means that we don’t know the new attorney-general’s view of the rating.

However, change was not to come as both sides to hear the fate of such rating next year, as the attorney-generals decided to delay making a decision till the new year, rather than in December.

The Privacy Dilemma

Mark Zuckerberg, Person of the Year (Picture: Time Magazine)

Did you know, Facebook’s privacy policy has more words that the United States Constitution? Yeah, its true.

2010 saw two important privacy-related stories. The first was Google’s collection of personal information thanks to its Street View cars in several countries, including Germany, the United Kingdom and Australia. Criminal investigations were conducted but eventually, Google promised to delete all the information in order to make sure the data was never to be used or stolen. However, while that was controversial, deleting the data also made headlines as Germany wanted the information to be handed over to them.

However, the biggest privacy story was Facebook. The massive social network has several privacy faux pas, with several changes that have made maintaining your profile’s privacy even harder despite Facebook claiming to make it clearer. It was also made worse when leaked instant messages revealed the extent of Mark Zuckerberg’s view of privacy during his years are Harvard:

Zuck: Yeah so if you ever need info about anyone at Harvard

Zuck: Just ask.

Zuck: I have over 4,000 emails, pictures, addresses, SNS

[Redacted Friend's Name]: What? How’d you manage that one?

Zuck: People just submitted it.

Zuck: I don’t know why.

Zuck: They “trust me”

Zuck: Dumb fucks.

However, despite the privacy violations and the fact that its API is essentially an open hose to get into a person’s information without actually needing to be friends with them and if they have essentially made their profile open to the damn world, people still continue to use the social network – with a possible hint at expanding at its most difficult market yet, Asia.

But it seems that Facebook’s privacy violations, in addition to its growth, allowed Time to name Zuckerberg their Person of the Year. Still, congrats on the award. Please don’t release all my data to the data collectors.

Saying Goodbye

The KIN represented Microsoft's failure to find a mobile strategy, and was killed off just months after launch.

Google said goodbye to China this year and hello to Hong Kong after the company was hacked in January by the Chinese government and would no longer censor search results, after agreeing to do so in 2005 in order to get a foothold in the largest internet market. As well, Wave, the darling of Google’s projects and hopeful “future” of email, was shut down and its code given to Apache.

Craigslist also said goodbye to something: its adults services section. The controversial section, which was predominately used to promote prostitution, was pulled in the United States back in September, and in December was closed for international users. As well, P2P software Limewire got the plug pulled after a court forced the company to be shut down for distributing pirated content.

Yahoo, however, said goodbye to many things as Carol Bartz continues to reposition the company in the aftermath of the failed bid from Microsoft. Yahoo bid adieu to the search engine business as it handed over its search engine technology to Microsoft for its Bing in the United States and Canada, with that deal to extend worldwide next year. It will also be shutting down MyBlogLog, Yahoo Picks, Yahoo Buzz, AltaVista and Yahoo Bookmarks – while also trying to sell Delicious, after many rose in fury that Yahoo would shut down the service.

In the other news, Cuil – the supposed Google challenger – was killed off in July after incomplete, weird and missing results put people off the search engine, despite good hype; while Six Apart shut down its Vox blogging service, unable to compete with Tumblr.

As well, we saw the short arrival and quick death of Microsoft’s biggest flop since Vista – the KIN phone, which was unceremoniously dumped back to Microsoft by Verizon.

Oh, and Wired said the web was dead.

What was the most memorable moment of 2010 for you? Comment below!

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