The Top 10 Tech Stories of 2011 and How They’ll End the Year

Posted by · December 29, 2011 10:32 am

This is part one of a two part series on the top tech stories of 2011. You can read part two here.

Author Anais Nin once said that “we write to taste life twice.” Never does that quote prove so true as the month of December when journalists start cranking out best of lists like there’s no tomorrow (and since we are about to enter 2012, there might not be).  The tech world is no exception to the best of craze—and rightly so–a lot of big things happened in our world this year and we want to relive the good, the bad and the annoying.

This year, I asked my co-workers to make a list of their top tech stories of 2011, then I compiled the list and asked them to vote on their top ten headlines.  Now that the votes have been tabulated, I thought I’d take a look at the people or companies involved in these stories and see whether they are concluding 2011 with triumph or tragedy.

1. Triumph and Tragedy: Apple—and the rest of the world—loses Steve Jobs

Unfortunately for Apple and all of us, the loss of Steve Jobs is a permanent tragedy, but the fear and trepidation that Apple fangirls and Wall Street executives initially felt over the potential loss of innovation (read: share prices)at the company should be long gone.  Siri, though still having trouble with accents, is getting rave reviews; the iPad 3 and a redesigned iPhone are set for release next year; and if the rumors are any indication, the Apple TV (set to debut in mid-2012) is going to be ah-maze-ing.  Apple shares will close the year selling at a little over $400, but analysts are predicting that the company will close in on $500 per share in 2012. That’s what Charlie Sheen and I call #winning.

2. Tragedy: Netflix tries to pull a Qwik one

How one company can start the year with such promise and end in such (potential) ruin is beyond me.  While I was not one of the haters who railed against the company for raising their prices, the Qwikster debacle definitely left me shaking my head.  That being said, I’m still a Netflix subscriber.  Unfortunately, a lot of other people don’t seem to be as forgiving.  The company had reportedly lost 800k subscribers by the end of Q3 and AllThingsD reported this week that Netflix took a significant plunge on ForeSee’s annual customer satisfaction survey (though as Forbes pointed out, their score of 79 is still on par with other online retailers).  2012 will be a key year for Netflix as they look to expand into the U.K and Ireland, where people are already using Amazon’s LoveFilm streaming service.   If Netflix can make in-roads in Europe while steadily improving customer satisfaction in the US, the company might live happily ever after, after all.

3. Triumph: Google + challenges—but doesn’t kill—Facebook

Whether you work in the tech industry or not, you definitely know about Google + and you’ve probably signed up for it.  The question is: are you using it? According to analyst Paul Allen, 62 million people have signed up for Google + and the service is adding 625,000 new users per day.  Allen predicts that more than 400 million users will be on board by the end of 2012.  Still, these numbers tell us nothing about who is actively using Google +, and maybe it’s just the circles (no pun intended) I run in, but techies and journalists still seem to be the predominant users of the social networking site, while my close friends remain on Facebook.  Then again, Google doesn’t seem to care that much about active users, so I guess they’ll be laughing all the way to the bank.

4. Triumph: Social Media powers the Arab Spring

I talked about social media’s impact on the Arab Spring a few week’s ago, but it’s worth discussing again here.  While the human networking and organizing that took place during these revolutions cannot be discounted (as evidenced in Egypt after Internet access was shut down and the protests kept going), many of the uprisings that took place in the Middle East this year were organized via social networks like Facebook and news of the uprisings spread to the rest of the world via Twitter and YouTube. People in the Middle East are now seeing the viability of social media as a platform to engender social and political change, and citizen journalists are playing just as large of a role as traditional journalists in sharing events and engaging their audience.

5. (Potential) Tragedy: SOPA threatens our empire

Even though Congress is on a holiday break, the debate over the Stop Online Privacy Act rages on online.  The latest Internet outrage came earlier this week when the already controversial GoDaddy (remember the elephant escapade) was exposed as a SOPA supporter and thousands of customers cancelled their domain subscriptions, causing GoDaddy to withdraw their SOPA support and shamelessly market Danica Patrick to ask the Internet’s forgiveness.  As Joshua Kopstein pointed out, it’s a tragedy that Congress doesn’t understand the Internet well enough to know that a bill like this could cripple innovation and growth in the tech industry, but it’s also tragic that the tech industry doesn’t understand Congress better.  As I said on the last Experts Exchange Podcast, big tech companies need to start pulling out all the stops if they want to kill this bill in 2012. I personally think this means throwing money at the bill’s congressional sponsors, and I also like CNET’s Declan McCullagh’s suggestion for the online equivalent of a nuclear option. Unfortunately, this is one story that won’t end until next year.

What do you think? Are these the top five tech stories of 2011? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to read Part 2 of the Experts Exchange top ten tech stories of 2011 here.