4 NewNet Companies That Made Headlines in 2010

1Executive Summary

Today, along with mobile, NewNet technologies like social media and real-time feeds are the catalysts of much of the innovation in the technology industry. And while all eyes are now fixed firmly on likely trends for 2011, it’s also worth taking a look at which companies made the biggest impact in NewNet in 2010 — and who remained surprisingly silent in the space.

Facebook. The Facebook platform has been around for three and a half years. But at its 2010 developer’s conference, the social media giant took its platform out to the web. Just as it was reaching half a billion users, Facebook began to establish a technology influence that is now as critical as those of platform leaders like Google, Microsoft, and Apple. Simply put, Facebook is truly in the big leagues now.

Twitter. Twitter, along with Facebook, is the lead propagator of the information feed and feed-based UIs. The company is managing an occasionally clumsy dance with its ecosystem and has yet to establish sustainable revenue streams. But if not yet a mass medium, Twitter has definitely reached critical mass, and its information streams are pushing the boundaries of influence analysis and social search.

Zynga. Zynga used Facebook to establish its leadership in social gaming. Much of the interesting work in virtual currency and virtual goods originate in social gaming, and gaming mechanics are driving the early user experiences in location-based services.

Groupon. Some consider it the poster child of social commerce, but Groupon’s core business is local advertising rather than actually selling things. That said, it’s the category leader in daily deals, what Forbes calls the “fastest-growing company ever” and the object of Google’s eye.

Surprisingly Silent

Given the importance of NewNet technologies, it is perhaps surprising that several tech leaders made relatively light impressions on the space. Some companies that were a little lackluster in 2010 include:

Google. In Google’s case, it’s not for lack of trying. But its Wave and Buzz initiatives were cancelled or are now struggling, and there’s no sign of Google Me, the rumored social technology “layer” that’s supposed to infuse core Google products. It did “caffeinate” and add real-time search by indexing and applying Twitter and other social feed data to its engine and algorithms. Google needs to continue to tap into social data for its search and ad-serving, and supply mashup-able APIs. Acquiring Groupon might be good for its local ad business, but wouldn’t necessarily guarantee NewNet platform additions.

Microsoft. Microsoft circled around the social media space with its Facebook investment/partnership, generally being quick to integrate Facebook technologies into communications and search. But SharePoint, Outlook, Azure and other enterprise apps and services have yet to have an impact on the overall social media space, nor have they adopted much from it.

Apple. It’s only fair to give Apple at least half-credit for NewNet impact in 2010. As a driving force in mobile, apps stores and ecosystems, and user interface, Apple’s impact is primarily as a delivery vehicle for social media consumption. It adapted some social networking technologies and UI conventions for its iTunes Store-based Ping social network. But Ping isn’t gaining much visible traction yet, even if it prefigures social commerce to come.

Other enterprise players. Salesforce.com adopted social collaboration features in its Chatter offering. But much smaller companies like Yammer, Jive, and Box.net appeared to spark more innovation in enterprise collaboration in 2010. They’ve been the quickest to adopt consumer-driven NewNet technologies — with their ease of use and widespread personal adoption — for business purposes.

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David Card

VP Research Gigaom Research

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