The Web’s Most, Biggest, Best, and Worst of 2007
2007 was a frenzied year for all things digital, and could be marked as when the revolution really began to take hold. Social media took center stage, impacting everything from politics to major corporate maneuvers to raising awareness of social causes.
There were lawsuits, mysteries, legal abuses, policy shifts, embarrassments, scandals, oppressions, miscalculations, bubble discussions, and significant innovations. All and all, 2007 was a big year for anybody with a stake on the Net.
So, without further ado, we present the Most, the Biggest, the Best, and the Worst of 2007.
Biggest Winner: Apple and the Jesus Phone
You know your product’s hit a nerve when people pair it up with the savior of the world. Apple CEO Steve Jobs induced a Web-and-media-wide paroxysm by introducing the iPhone last January, which lasted until the mob turned on him over steep price cuts in advance of the holiday season. Pair that with a wildly successful ad campaign, surging stock prices, and increasing comparisons to Microsoft (gasp!), and you’ve got an all around winner.
Biggest Losers: Apple TV, Kevin Martin, Second Life, and the RIAA
Launch of Apple TV, which promised to link Web content to television sets, was overshadowed by the aforementioned Jesus phone. Not that it mattered much; once bloggers got around to it, they were less than enthused.
Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin proved himself to be such a telco-industry flunkie in regard to Net Neutrality, cable regulation, 700 MHz auction rules, and spectrum use that his year ends with threats of a Congressional investigation for abuse of power. Well done, Kevin. Or at least you will be when the grilling’s finished.
Even though Second Life lit up 2006 with the possibilities and issues virtual worlds presented to marketers and lawyers, and even influenced philosophies regarding virtual goods and currencies in 2007, those accumulated Linden dollars may soon be doing as poorly as the real dollar, or worse. Recent reports show Second Life has become a bit of a ghost town.
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) bullied, fought, and sued its way to infamous villainy in both 2006 and 2007 by targeting not just file-sharing networks but also file-sharers themselves. But 2007 marked the year the recording industry began to walk away from DRM (digital rights management). EMI, Universal, and Warner Music Group all opened their hearts to DRM-free digital format, leaving only Sony BMG to fight the losing battle.
Most Influential: Google
No company has shaken things up or put fear into the hearts of the established industry players than Google. Viacom slapped the company with a billion-dollar lawsuit in March for fear of losses to Google-owned YouTube. Microsoft ironically cried antitrust when Google bought online ad company DoubleClick for $3.1 billion. And Google’s presence in the federal 700 MHz spectrum auction pushed behemoths like AT&T and Verizon to reevaluate their strategies and open up their networks. As Google stock continues to scrape the ceiling, every parallel industry is scared of Google, and knows that Google is leading the dance.
Biggest Hypocrites: Viacom, Microsoft, and Maybe Google
Though Viacom is claiming a billion dollars in losses due to YouTube, the company acts as though there is no money to be made online when negotiating with striking writers looking for a piece of the Internet pie.
It’s hard not to laugh when Microsoft complains to the government that another company will have an unfair advantage in the marketplace. It’s even harder to keep that laughter in when very soon after Microsoft complains about Google’s purchase of DoubleClick and lack of competition in the online ad space, Microsoft turns around and buys aQuantive for $6 billion, twice what Google will pay for DoubleClick. Microsoft’s complaint appears to be more strategic than legitimate.
Google rocked the webmaster world by dropping webpages with paid links from its index. There has been a debate about whether or not that is justified, especially in regard to online directories. Many feel Google is not only dictating to webmasters what they can and cannot do with their websites, but also is being hypocritical considering Google’s entire business model is based on selling links.
Least Graceful Exits: Blognation and Terry Semel
What many thought was a concept to rival Reuters or the Associated Press – a worldwide network of tech bloggers called Blognation – became one scandalized mess. Blognation Founder and CEO Sam Sethi admitted to lying to bloggers about funding and impending payment, but also accused TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington of sabotaging Blognation’s efforts with investors. As Blognation spiraled toward non-existence, Arrington shot back by implying Sethi’s dishonesty contributed to the sudden death of a Blognation editor.
Dissatisfied with the company’s growth, Yahoo shareholders booted CEO Terry Semel at the beginning of the year and put Jerry Yang and Susan Decker at the helm. Either new policies are slow to take hold or that was a bad decision, as the company continues to lose market share to Google.
Biggest Scandals: Facebook Beacon, Yahoo and China, Comcast and p2p
Though some would argue Facebook had the best year ever – crazy valuations, Microsoft investment, substantial growth as a result of an open platform, and constant media attention – it wasn’t without its share of major problems. In addition to the yonker CEO Mark Zuckerberg having to face old classmates over accusations of stealing their idea, he was also forced to apologize for and revamp Facebook’s marketing service, Beacon, which broadcasted what Facebook users were buying at partner sites. Privacy advocates, led by MoveOn.org, went ballistic.
Yahoo found itself in a mess when it was revealed that an executive had not been truthful when a Congressional committee grilled him about Yahoo’s knowledge of Chinese authority’s reason for requesting information about a Yahoo Mail user. Yahoo assistance to the Chinese government resulted in the jailing of two journalistic dissidents.
Comcast raised Network Neutrality alarms and, in effect, provided a proof of concept, when the company was discovered to be interfering with peer-to-peer traffic in order to prioritize traffic. The incident provided nice fodder for Net Neutrality advocates.
Best Snooping Device: WikiScanner
A 24-year-old hacker developed a way to peek in on whom was editing Wikipedia articles based on IP address tracking. The results were stunning, with questionable edits coming from government agencies, major corporations, and media entities all looking to control their messages.
Most Abused: the DMCA
Don’t like what someone’s saying about you online? Lawyer up and send out a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notice in order to bully their comments offline. This practice become more and more common in 2007, and at the pinnacle of abuse was one lawyer copyrighting the notice itself in order to sue when a blogger posted it on his blog.
Best Marketing Move: Radiohead
Popular rock group Radiohead dropped a bomb of an experiment online this year. Instead of letting record labels dictate the distribution of their music, Radiohead made their entire album "In Rainbows" available online free of charge for a limited time, and accepted donations from fans based on what they thought the album was worth. In addition, the band sold box sets, concert tickets, and t-shirts, proving that giving away their music could generate interest and sales.
Biggest Social Media Breakthrough: YouTube/CNN Debates
Another step toward a more populist democracy, YouTube broke new ground for Web 2.0 as the public was given unprecedented access to Presidential candidates. Both Democrat and Republican candidates were subjected to questions from everyday people, rather than just the media elite.
Best Online Mystery: Fake Steve Jobs
LonelyGirl is so 2006. This year, the favorite mystery to be solved was the unmasking of Fake Steve Jobs. They tried to trick him and to track him. They accused the wrong people. Finally, the New York Times discovered Fake Steve Jobs was actually Forbes editor Daniel Lyons.
Startup Having the Best Year Ever: Twitter
Expanding from micro-blogging curiosity, Twitter has become a social media must, being used in times of emergency like earthquakes and collapsed bridges, and for starting up charitable causes like the Frozen Pea Fund. Expect Twitter to be acquired in 2008.