2011 – A Year of Many Things: A recap of the big events of the year

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Social: Google enters, LinkedIn goes IPO and Timeline

After the failures of Orkut, Wave and Buzz, you would have thought Google would have just given up on attempting to compete against Twitter and Facebook. This year saw the quiet launch – and huge fanfare – of Google+. With privacy the main focus, it attracted those who were conscious about what they post on their Facebook wall. And it did succeed, initially.

However, for Google, it was too slow to compete. While it had “circles” which meant that you could publish stuff only to certain groups, it didn’t have the other features that Facebook had. There were no games to play for the users, no “pages” for businesses who wanted to set up a presence, and for some unknown reason, a full API wasn’t developed (their current offering of an API lets you read, not write). However, it had one thing that Facebook did not – the audience that Google has.

Welcome to Google+

Google has pushed deep integration with Google+ in all of its services. You can send a little status on any Google service, share a link via Google Reader or even share a YouTube video with simple click. Even Android has seen a lot of integration with Google+ beyond the app with Ice Cream Sandwich. It was also no coincidence that the launch also saw a new design for Google, ditching the harsh blue links to something a bit more subdue and a design that did not scream like a dog’s breakfast (especially on Reader).

But while it has attracted many in the US, it has failed to make an impact in Australia. And it could be because we’re more interested in Facebook and Twitter and not Google+. It could also be the fact that Google+ hasn’t offered anything that wants to make us move to it, even as a side thing along Twitter and Facebook.

But Google is continuing with this, and hopefully 2012 sees some improvement and maybe some features that can compete with Facebook.

Meanwhile, three other companies launched their IPOs – LinkedIn, Groupon and Pandora. They all experienced massive gains initially – LinkedIn closing at $109.97 on July 15, its all-time high. The companies, however, lost their luster after the sovereign debt crisis plaguing Europe scared many shareholders, and for Groupon, its profitability. With Facebook expected to make its IPO sometime next year, these three results don’t look too good for its stock and could potentially hold off until it is forced by law to go public.

MySpace, on the other hand, was sold in June by News Corporation. The new owners – Specific Media and Justin Timberlake – are hoping to reinvigorate the brand, but what that entails is still up in the air. Many are pointing towards its more popular music section, as indie bands still continue to use MySpace to promote themselves.

Facebook and Twitter, on the other hand, launched their redesigns. Facebook’s new “Timeline” feature is a mixed bag as it does what Facebook wants you to do with it – place your memories, trips and life memories so it could sell ads based on that. However, people don’t like change – as seen with the controversial sidebar with the news ticker. Facebook also settled its dispute with the Federal Trade Commission over privacy concerns, and will now be subject to audits for 20 years. Twitter, however, relaunched with much hype – #newnewtwitter. The new design repositions Twitter to be more social, and now able to track the conversation more easily.

But for 2012, it’s open to anything.

– TH

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