Was 2011 the Year of Social Networking?

Posted by · December 13, 2011 3:54 pm

Has anyone else noticed that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish websites from one another? Last week, Twitter announced some big changes to its layout, which made the site look a lot like Facebook; and today, TwitVid launched some changes to its layout which made it look like the lovechild of YouTube and Google +.  With the updates to TwitVid, CEO Mo Adham told TechCrunch’s Erick Schonfeld that he hopes the site will become a social destination rather than simply a repository of videos that people access via Twitter.

Adham’s statement basically means that a website that’s already based on something social will become even more social and only serves to confirm that 2011 will go down in Internet history as the year of, well, social networking.  But, in case you’re still not convinced that social is here to stay, here are the top five most social stories of 2011 that we’ll probably still be talking about in 2012:

Google launches first major Facebook rival with Google + – The very existence of Google + means that Facebook has become a force that the GOOG wants, or more likely needs, to reckon with.  Google’s launch of the social networking site means that people now have a choice about where to manage their online persona or company brand; and advertisers now have one more reason to spend their ad dollars with Google.   The jury is still out as to whether Google + will be a success or failure, but maybe that doesn’t matter after all.

The Facebook Timeline that almost wasn’t– In addition to revealing Facebook’s integration to almost every major news, shopping, music and video site on the web,  Mark Zuckerberg and his team made some big promises at their F8 developer’s conference in September.  Unfortunately, they’re just now starting to roll out the biggest feature release they promised: Facebook Timeline.  The lawsuit ridden Timeline launched in New Zealand last week and rumor has it that people in other countries are receiving invites to check it out.  Personally, I can’t quite decide whether Facebook is waiting to launch Timeline in the US until after the legal woes have been settled or until they’ve filed for their IPO.  Complaining users do not a high dollar share value make.

Microsoft wants to join the SOCL club– Ok. Maybe this isn’t the best indication that 2011 was the year of social.  After all, Microsoft does have a history of having a “me too” mentality when it comes to launching new features.  Still, it will be interesting to see what the company does with its super secret social network, SOCL.  If Microsoft is going to move forward with its own social networking site, they would be wise to take the advice of our own Matt Stanford and focus on competing with Google, rather than Facebook or Twitter.  Stanford says: “Instead of eyeing Facebook the way Google did with Google Plus, Microsoft’s sole purpose for Socl should be to increase the use of Bing. Anything more, unfortunately, would be a pipedream, at least right now.” Looks like we’ll have to wait until 2012 to see if (pipe) dreams really do come true.

The use of social media in the Arab spring– Technically, this movement started in December of 2010, but the uprisings in the Arab world have continued throughout all of 2011, and the use of social media to document the demonstrations and unite protestors has been a common thread in each country’s story.  Chances are, many of these regime changes would have happened without the use of social media, but perhaps M Har628 said it best in his comment on this article: “Facebook/Twitter did not revolutionize the Arab World, rather it was the Arab World (as we saw in Egypt ) that gave social media its new revolutionary application!” With 2012 being an election year in the US, I’m interested to see if social media has a revolution up its sleeve for America.

The subtle rise of Pinterest– If in fact, as I asserted earlier in the article, all websites are beginning to look the same, Pinterest may be the answer to design homogeneity; and the beautifully tiled site could also be ushering in a new era of search.  The social pinning site has garnered a huge (predominantly female) following this year, and I personally find myself logging on to Pinterest instead of doing a Google search when I want to find design, style or cooking inspiration.  With $200 million in VC in their back pocket and a $40 million valuation, Pinterest is the website to watch in 2012.

What about you? Do you think 2011 was the year of social networking? Are there any other social stories that should have made this list?

Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Follow me on Twitter and Google +