Based on criteria solely their own, the Webby Awards announced this week the decade’s top Internet stories – presumably, the moments that had the greatest impact on how we use online tools. Their choices? The launch of Google, Facebook Wikipedia; the election of Barack Obama, and the closing of Napster, among others. I’m not certain if the order is specific, but the expansion of Craigslist outside San Francisco is No. 1.
Although any list like this necessarily becomes controversial, there is in the Webby Awards selections a relentless, if not myopic, focus on the consumer. If we looked behind the scenes – at the kind of Internet-enabled strategies that forever changed the way business was done – we would see how many important moments were missed. A few examples :
Apple launches iTunes (2003) – while Napster’s closure disappointed many music fans, iTunes revolutionized e-commerce for an entire industry.
Tim O’Reilly coins the term Web 2.0 (2004) I’m sure someone used it much earlier, but it took the technology book publisher to articulate how the Web experience was changing and put a stake in the ground for a whole series of services which followed.
Amazon launches the Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) – the notion of cloud computing had been evolving for years, but the online bookseller popularized a technique for serving customers that has become the focal point for nearly every service provider.
Conficker is discovered (2008) – there has never been an IT security threat so stealthy, so quick to change, and so successful. Many enterprises are still fighting it off.
Twitter is born (2006) – it only really hit the mainstream this year, but the microblogging service has created new opportunities for communication, collaboration and even, occasionally, revenue.
These were just off the top of my head, but I’m sure there are others. This year is a good time to have these kind of reflections. They help us measure our progress, recognize our mistakes and hopefully plan for the future. It’s great that the Webby Awards got the ball rolling, but it shouldn’t end there. History is a collective enterprise, kind of like user-generated content. See? I just came up with another one.