Monday, November 26, 2007

2007 Social Media Top 10 List

It’s that time of year again. Time to choose the most significant social media story of the year. And keeping with our growing reliance on beta testing and soft launching, I am posting before the launch of 2008.

From Facebook to Twitter and from Justin.TV to iPhone, it was indeed a busy year. To help with the review process, I went day by day through the year on Techmeme. I included stories that intrigued me the most.

As much as the events themselves, it is important to define our terms. Fundamentally, what constitutes significance? I looked at whether the story was about social media and how much social media impacted the story. It is not only about dollars spent or generated. Nor is it only about the number of stories written or blog entries posted. And when it comes to significance, there is the short term and long term. Is significance measured based on its impact in 2007 or what it may mean in the long run?

As a student of history, I know that significance changes over time. What is important today can be meaningless tomorrow, and what is overlooked today can have dramatic consequences in the future. Without that crystal ball, I will leave long-term prognostications to the futurists.

So without further ado, I offer up (in no particular order) my Top 10 List of Most Significant 2007 Social Media Events.

2007 Runners Up

Wikipedia Scandals - Microsoft and Wikipedia scanner

Two separate events this year prompted me to add Wikipedia to the list. The first was Microsoft’s decision to openly pay a consultant to submit comments on a Wikipedia entry to correct perceived inaccuracies about open source. While compensated by Microsoft, the consultant could write what he wanted – good and bad. An uproar ensued as Microsft was charged with violating Wikipedia’s conflict of interest policy.

The second story involved Virgil Griffith, a California Institute of Technology grad student. He created a search tool that traces the comments and edits on Wikipedia entries back to their source IP address. His tool revealed the actions of companies who inappropriately edited their Wikipedia entries. Given Wikipedia’s growing influence as a definitive information source for millions of users, it is unfortunate that a compromise can’t be reached for companies to be able to openly and honestly represent themselves in entries about them.

Lifecasting and

Lifecasting enjoyed some buzz this year through the publicity efforts of Justin Kan founder of is one of several video sites that records the daily lives of individuals in real time. Sites like, Stickam, Operator 11, and Ustream offer home-made reality TV, uploaded by users to view.

Lifecasting speaks to video’s impact on the Internet and social media. More importantly it addresses the 24/7 nature of media, the personalization of news and the changing attitudes toward private and public spheres. In short, it begs the question, is anything private any more?

Kathy Sierra Blog Death Threats

A number of disturbing comments and images on blogs about Kathy Sierra tests the limits of free speech. It also demonstrates the dark side of social media and underscores the fragile sense of civility that holds all our online conversations together.

Microsoft/Yahoo Merger Speculation

This story is not so much about Microsoft and Yahoo; it’s about the growing power of Google in the Internet economy and the continuing belief that bigger is better even as start-up companies continue to drive much of web 2.0’s innovation.

Obama for President Social Media Site

In 2004, it was the blog that captured the minds and hearts of Presidential candidates. In 2008, social networks have blossomed to include presidential campaigns. Barack Obama launched The site invites supporters to create a profile, blog their campaign experiences, plan and attend events, find other supporters, and help raise funds for the campaign. And if the real world was not enough, candidates including John Edwards and Obama launched sites on Second Life – in an effort to leave no cyberstone unturned.

Fires in Southern California and the Tragic Shootings at Virginia Tech

These tragedies would have been major news stories without social media, but the use of Twitter to aid Red Cross relief efforts in southern California and the use of Facebook by Virginia Tech students to reach each other demonstrates the growing importance that social media is playing in the covering and possible containment of unfolding tragedies and disasters.

News Corp Acquisition of Dow Jones

When it was announced in 2005, Rupert Murdoch’s purchase of MySpace made a traditional media company more social and new media site more traditional. This year, Murdoch completed his purchase of Dow Jones – putting him in the running for the most influential media titan – new or traditional. His presence will be far reaching and if nothing else perhaps we will finally get free online access to the Wall Street Journal.


What can I add in 140 characters about this much discussed, addictive messaging platform that is still virtually unknown despite the hype?

Apple iPhone

The number of stories and blog postings about the Apple iPhone is only matched by the length of the lines that people formed to buy one. Yes, they are cool and slick and the ads are entertaining and fun. Add to that the hype in being the first on your block to see let alone have one, the hackers who successfully broke AT&T’s firewall, the poor guy at Verizon who turned down Apple’s offer to be its first partner, and the uproar when Steve Jobs lowered the price by $200 just a little more than two months after the first wave paid $599. The iPhone once again demonstrates the power of technology to excite and the ability of engineers with a sense of design to be cool or “tight” as today’s teenagers would say. Mobile devices are indeed a lifestyle, fashion statement, status symbol, and this year a media event.

2007 Winner


Can a drop-out from Harvard with an idea based on discussions from others change business models and redirect the future of technology? I am not talking about Bill Gates but Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook. Zuckerberg this year transformed an online community for college and high schools students into a powerful social network for adults wishing to keep in touch for personal and professional reasons. Time will tell if it has more staying power than Friendster and if it can retain or exceed the coolness that MySpace achieved.

But its impact and the reason why it made the top of my list is its decision to let other companies build and install their applications on Facebook and receive any revenue they could generate. The spread of wealth led to a present day gold rush with companies prospecting for opportunities to capitalize on Facebook’s growing number of users. Proof of its impact – speculation of $15 billion price tag for Facebook and Google’s recently announced OpenSocial decision to band with companies like Friendster and MySpace to support an open set of interoperable application interfaces for web-based social network applications.

This Just In

The dangers of posting early. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Kindle, Amazon’s answer to the electronic book. Its announcement made the cover of Newsweek. Its design has been compared to a Texas Instrument 1980′s prototype, but time will tell if it is the tipping point in how we read books and newspapers.

Well there you have it. There are may be others I overlooked. And of course your personal experiences with social media may be far more significant than the ones I chose.

What is your number one event on the social media top ten list? I would like to know. Did I miss something? Please share with others and let me know.

Let me get back to you.

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Posted by Dan Greenfield in 22:05:00

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