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Top 10 web destinations of 2011

This year the theme is location, location, location.

2010 saw the long-awaited consolidation of Web 2.0, the commoditisation of smart phones, and the colonisation of all things social media by the PR industry.

This all led to one dominant social theme for 2011:  location-based services. And how we applied them!

  • The Arab Spring. Governments challenged, people empowered: events moved faster and more co-ordinated than may ever have been possible without the messaging and co-ordination of their mobile phones.
  • Occupy Wall Street. And related locations worldwide. The twittering classes movement born, after a long gestation, from the credit crisis. Whose father was probably the Arab Spring, and whose influential uncle was the blackberry-messenger driven riots of the summer.
  • The toppling of the old media. In the dying years of print media, old newspapers accused each other of hacking, eavesdropping and tailing. They briefly filled their shrinking circulations. One profitable paper was closed, others became free-sheets.
  • Maps, maps everywhere. Remember when only the educated could read an Ordnance Survey map? Now we move seamlessly from Google pre-trip planning, to in-car tom-tom, to turn-by-turn smartphone directions. By the close of the year, Google even expects to have the inside of your neighbourhood shopping mall and airport mapped out.
  • Following journalists. Want to know what is really happening? Follow your favorite trusted journalists as they tweet from the front line, don flack-jackets, check facts on the move, and then file reports down the wire to confirm what you already know from Twitter.
  • Social meetups. Track each other as you converge on a social event: the socialising starts with the pre-meeting planning, builds up in the travelling, hits full steam by the time you meet.

So here are my top 10 web destinations from 2011. Some new, many grown from earlier years, all of them building on location, community and engagement.

10. Local services sites. These are specific to where you live, of course. For example in my area, the Netherlands, I can use the ns trains app, which shows the next trains departing from my nearest station,or the Schiphol app, showing the landing gate and time of the plane I am meeting. With the technical equipment now standard in a phone, public transport planning sites could ( but my local one does not, yet ) show the next bus and the route options from the bus stop where I am standing, to the places where I normally go. Other contenders are the open data providers: london transport gov  provides all the realtime data to empower developers to make location-aware apps.

9. BBC news, internet TV, internet radio. Old favorites that have really matured. The combination of funding cuts, social responsibility and the hyper-local initiative has made BBC news a top trusted destination. The Today programme on BBC radio 4 via Tune-in internet radio informs my morning commute. Internet TV lets me join the community following world sporting events. BBC iPlayer gets no mention this year because they geo-filter by IP.

8. salesforce.com. Many have tried to run a Twitter behind a paywall; salesforce.com have the audience size and type to make it work. Further fuelled by slick sales and marketing, and the approachable evangelism of Chief Scientist JP Rangaswami. The event that earns them their place in my top 10 was Oracle Open World, the highly publicised gathering of the more traditional ERP community, when Larry Ellison famously booted Marc Benioff off the speakers roster.

7. All things oAuth. Now no-one needs a login page on their website, no-one needs to run a customer master,no-one needs to remember numerous passwords! We can all login using our facebook or linkedin identity! I predicted this would come, last year. And it has. But what I did not forsee, was the profound social impact: no more pseudonyms, no more fantasy persona on the internet, we all have to be honest now. Our online activity is linked,trackable, open to public scrutiny. Brilliant. oAuth is an historic achievement from the open source developers.

6. Wikipedia. First teachers told children not to quote from it in homework. Now parents tell children to use Wikipedia anyway, then quote from the sources of Wikipedia instead. Now teachers and parents alike find that much of Wikipedia is written by the children anyway. At work this year I found my well-remunerated and well-respected management consultants checking facts in Wikipedia and openly quoting their source back at us! God bless Jimmy Wales.

5. Twitter, Google+, Facebook, RIM messaging. All grown exponentially. Email, not so relevant. The txt dialect of SMS lives on in blackberry messaging and emoticons. The quaint 140 character limit of Twitter continues; as a simple device for self edit. Google+ shows that a social media stream can also work without these limit rules. At present the format of my own G+ stream seems to centre round graphics of key phrases embellished with cartoons or photos, as a stand-first or lead-in to the fuller content. Lets see how things evolve for 2012.

4. Youtube. Simply divine, this year, with the continuous tweaks to usability, content improvement, and provenance checking. Now the 3 minute limitation has been lifted this has become a creation to rival TV. Google run it like a dog on a long leash: unpredictable, out of control, and giving no clear signals of direction. Last year some wondered whether this growth would be destroyed by copyright enforcement. This year Youtube turned around and bought the copyright enforcement agency. Now who is on who’s long leash?

3. Samsung Android phones. Not a website, but a destination in its own right. With the easy-on-the-eye AMOLED screen technology, and the ‘intents’ software design that allows each android app to interlink. You can while away hours effortlessly networking, surfing, and sharing on these things. Stand in any public place or take any public transport and watch everyone do it. Check Samsungs’ sales figures and see this is happening worldwide. This is an unstoppable force that no amount of laws and lawyers will stop now.

2. stackoverflow.com. Never mind the ebook as a replacement to traditional publishing: collaborative informative sites like this are what have really replaced the book. When I want to learn something, I come here. When I want to seed my twitter following with technical experts, I start from here. If one of the contributors to this site walked in to a job interview, I would hire them. If you want to create a reputation, make answers here. When you want to know whats trending, track the current questions here. When you want to measure your skills, check yourself against the answers here. Considering buying an ebook? Sample the calibre and style of the author here first. Resolution for next year? Roll up your sleeves and help out answering stackoverflow.com questions.

1. churchservices.tv. This one has it all: location, engagement, purpose. In the churches, the webcams, or maybe CCTVs, are left on. This app simply alerts you when the next service is to start. Tune in to an empty church for some quiet contemplation, or make a date and follow along to the service of your choice. A great, open-ended social channel. An invitation to participate and engage. Leveraging technology that is already in place in many churches. The design is so simple, I expect this to explode all over the internet in years to come.

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