It was a busy year in 2012, both from a search engine point of view as well as a technological point of view; from mergers & acquisitions to new startups making a splash. Companies like Facebook made more controversial changes which users didn’t like (but were nonetheless forced to accept) while others brought out new ideas that flopped.
2012 was the year people embraced “The Cloud” and all it’s offerings and was also a big year for new gadgets.
There were many impressive gadgets this year. 2012 seemed to be the year of the Android phones. Android as an operating system has been growing in popularity and that didn’t slow down in 2012. Samsung, however, seems to be the breakout winner when it comes to phones. It’s Galaxy phones were a hit when they first came out and are even more popular now.
2012 also brought us many new and incredibly powerful Android tablets from makers like Google and Samsung. Both companies began offering “full size” tablets as well as smaller versions.
But there was also other tablet news in 2012. This year Apple released not 1 but 2 new tablets – an updated iPad and the new iPad mini. The new iPad came out with its “Retina” display – with an astounding 2048-by-1536-pixel resolution. The iPad mini was designed to take on the eReader market as well as the Android mini market.
2012 also brought us a new term in TVs and movies. “4K” refers to the resolution of the new breed of TVs and movies making their debut this year.
Of course many people are probably aware of the new Hobbit movie which was filmed in 4K as well as 3D. 4K resolution is about 4 times higher (and clearer) than current 1080p TVs that many people own now. While there are very few 4K TVs on the market right now I expect in the next year or 2 we will see a flood of these. Much like 3D TVs were the big seller during Christmas 2011, 4K TVs will make a splash very soon.
Also new this year was the Windows 8 based Microsoft Surface. This is a tablet with a twist. The twist is that you can plug it into a keyboard so that it can function like both a tablet and laptop. The jury is still out on the both the newer version of windows, as well as the tablet, but I have tried Windows 8 and while it is a radical shift from what we consider a “desktop” it is one that I think is more efficient for users. Sure there is still a “traditional” desktop (minus the start menu) but to me the new desktop has many advantages.
Social Media became the buzz phrase this year – if you weren’t using social media to promote your business you were missing out.
But many merchants were wondering where they were “missing out” because they had adopted social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc) early on and weren’t seeing that much return for the time and cost invested.
Granted there are some businesses who say they are getting a lot of business from their social media campaigns, but in my experience these are also businesses who are not well positioned online and therefore have no benchmark to compare to.
That being said, there were some other shifts in social media in 2012.
Probably the biggest for most people was Facebook’s shift to the “Timeline” which actually was launched at the end of 2011 but didn’t gain prominence until 2012 when Facebook forced it’s users to switch to the new display.
Also in 2012 Facebook went public. Almost as soon as it the IPO live the value of the shares dropped. Opening at $38 per share they are now worth about $27, but did hit a low of just under $18 earlier in the year.
Why the sudden drop? Well there is lots of theories but most of the consensus is that Facebook was overvalued from the start and the drop was from the market self-correcting.
2012 was also big for image sharing. Sites like Instagram and Pinterest became the talk of the social sphere. So much was made of these sites that Facebook bought Instagram in 2012 for $1 billion. Facebook mostly did this as an action against Twitter as many Instragram users used the service to post to Twitter.
There were many reasons image sharing became so big, not the least of which were the tragedies (both human and natural caused) that occurred this year.
Viral videos were also big in 2012. The biggest was Psy’s Gangham style. Published on July 15 it has already received almost 1 BILLION (yes that is right BILLION) views! It is the most viewed video on Youtube. There was also a social media/viral video campaign called “Kony 2012” that became big online, but also had its share of controversy.
Twitter also had a big year in 2012 – As mentioned above events like Hurricane Sandy helped propel Twitter traffic to new heights, as did the US Presidential election.
LinkedIn had a pretty good year too – they relaunched their business profile pages and improved their personal profiles. They also had a big growth year – claiming 10 to 15 million new users per quarter in 2012.
Oh ya, Microsoft launched a social network as well – called so.cl. Need we say more? And Google+ was still the social network that everyone was a member of and still didn’t know why.
As usual there were many changes in search in 2012. Google seemed to have the most (or maybe the most noticed?) changes in 2012.
The sidebar that was prominent on the left side of the page was moved to the top of the page, allowing the search results to shift over to the left a bit. The results were also squeezed a bit to make room for “knowledge graph” results to appear on the right side of the page.
On the right side of the page now you will see additional information for certain types of searches. Search for a celebrity and you will see a brief bio of that person, along with images and other facts.
When local searches are performed, the same space is used for the map but it has been shrunk to take up less space. And sometimes you will even see only 1 business listed in this spot, along with images of the business.
Google also has been moving to changing the number of organic results on the page, particularly when you have the new knowledge graph results. On some searches you will only see 7 organic results instead of the usual 10. This is also the case for some local searches.
There were also roughly 500 algorithm and other updates or enhancements to Google search results this year.
In terms of Bing and Yahoo, aside from algorithm changes there was nothing earth shattering to report. Bing continues to scrape away at Google and the other search engines. It’s market share is growing but not at Google’s expense. Likely, because of its focus on Windows 8, Microsoft downplayed Bing this year.
In 2012 Yahoo! hired Marissa Mayer as CEO. Mayer was a top Google executive. It is hoped she can turn the Yahoo! boat around and make them into the powerhouse they once were.
Sometimes one can get an idea of where things are going by looking at the companies that were acquired by the big 3 search engines.
Google’s purchases were all over them map – acquiring companies to help enhance their existing products such as Google+, Gmail, Android and Google Docs. But they also bough companies to integrate into Google search such as Frommer’s Travel Guides. I think a lot of the purchases made in 2012 will begin to show up in 2013, particularly in Android – from better image manipulation and sharing, to online and mobile payments, to coupons, to social networking enhancements.
Microsoft’s purchases appear to be made to play catchup. They bought a social media company, a 2 factor authentication firm, a touch screen company and a cloud storage company. Sounds like they are betting big on mobile in 2013.
Facebook made purchases meant to augment their current offerings such as the ability to share your location better and share your photos better. But they also acquired what could be turned into an online payment system much like Google Wallet, a social bookmarking system and a social media aggregator – a tool that combines social media, email and messaging into 1 app. It also allows companies to see how much impact their social media campaigns are having.
In the end…
It was a busy year and technology played a big part of it. Never before has the world been as connected as it is. We can get instant reports of what is happening not only around the corner but around the world. We can see pictures and video of those events, chat with people involved in them in real time and re-share that information with people in our circles.
Mobile phones are getting cheaper and faster, and tablets are bridging the gap between those phones and personal computers.
And behind it all are the various cloud based applications driving our world: From TV and entertainment to personal communications.
2012 was an exciting year and 2013 is already shaping up to be even more so.