Several web technology themes and trends were reinforced in the fourth quarter of 2011, including a handful of tech platform wannabes and the rumblings of a shakeout in social commerce. For NewNet, the fourth quarter lacked a single, dominating big- event product announcement like Q3’s Facebook platform extension or Q2’s unveiling of Google+.
It seems that everybody wants to be a platform. But it takes more than announcing the fact and offering a few APIs to build a thriving business ecosystem. Zynga offered some sketchy ideas around a social gaming platform while music streamer Spotify added some useful features from third-party developers. But while Google+ has moved in fits and starts and even attracted some internal criticism, Google has the smarts and resources to start to challenge Facebook. And Google brings along a ready revenue stream for its developer partners.
Consumer and social technologies continued to gain momentum in the workplace in Q4, and Jive Software went public on those trends. Likewise, Dropbox and Box raised tons of money, and they are showing that ease of use, simplicity and freemium pricing are quick paths to enterprise adoption.
New vehicles for content and service discovery present both challenges and opportunities to NewNet companies. News readers, social sharing and marketing tools like company pages, and hybrid advertising and syndication tools are new ways to reach and retain audiences. But most don’t come with built-in revenues.
Groupon went public amid the beginnings of a big social commerce shakeout. The daily deals space has long looked overcrowded due to the low cost of entry in any single local market. But winners will have to deliver scale, and many players are looking to partnerships and complementary lines of business to sustain growth.
Looking forward, we will likely see the continuation of the web versus app debate, as HTML5 development picks up steam. There should be deeper integration of connected work tools in business functions outside marketing and sales, and we should see some big data analysis payoffs, possibly in social commerce. And many expect a Facebook IPO.