Top Technology Stories of 2008

Update:  Don’t miss our upcoming CES 2011 live coverage here at Technology Report

Techmeme is a favorite of many in technology for pulling together technology stories and the conversations that often swirl around them.  Unlike a simple “ranking” system, TechMeme surfaces the top stories and then links out to blogs and sites that are discussing those “hot topics”.     Thus a quick review of TechMeme can give you a very fast orientation to the stories that are making their rounds in the blogs.    That does not always correspond to stories that actually *matter* to real folks, but it’s a great start.

TechMeme’s new story editor Megan has a list here of the top 10 for 2008.   Number one was the Microsoft – Yahoo aquisition saga, number two was Apple quitting MacWorld, and number three was Google Chrome.

Disclosure: Long on YHOO

Google Chrome: It’s a very good browser, so why don’t we use it?

When Google Chrome launched several months ago I think a lot of folks assumed they’d be switching to that browser, which uses several excellent innovations to enhance online navigation.     Google even issued a nifty comic book to help explain the innovation, and blogs were buzzing for weeks with mostly neutral or favorable reviews.

So what happened?    Why is Google Chrome market share so small compared to Firefox and IE?

The first reason of course is simply  … habit ….   It’s very hard to get people – even innovative online folks – to change from one good application to another.   Contrary to a lot of silly suggestions the Internet Explorer browser was not broken and even though FireFox has slowly been gaining market share it is clear that the rapid demise of IE was greatly exaggerated.     I use FireFox but I’d hardly say it’s dramatically superior or even all that different from IE.

Although it’s hurting Google Chrome, our habituation works very well for Google in the search sphere where people tend to use Google for search without even testing against other engines – that game is over and until we see a major new semantic search innovation Google’s likely to be the search of choice for years to come.

Interestingly Google Chrome really does “feel” different to me and on balance I liked the differences, yet like millions of other onliners who loaded up Chrome I did not switch over and rarely use that browser now.  I know one of my concerns was the uncertainty that still surrounds Google’s treatment of the data I indirectly share with them using Google products.   As a regular user of Google search, Gmail, blogger, and more watching Google both become dominant and also struggle to maintain their legendarily high online revenue I do worry that Google has too great a potential to become “the boss of me”.

Still not sure what’s up with Chrome, but as with many things internet it’s good to head over to Matt Cutts’ blog to get a very well informed opinion.     Matt is one of a handful of Google’s veteran search engineers and writes what for many is the key blog discussing issues relating to search, especially Google search.

Matt’s Five Reasons to Use Google Chrome

Matt’s Ten Reasons Not to Like Google Chrome

Hmmm – I don’t think it’s fair to use the 5 vs 10 math here, but maybe Matt’s on to something.   As creatures of habit we tend to settle in to the familiar and with the new we quickly look for things that bother us.   Google Chrome may in fact be the best browser, and I think I’d want to take the Crhome side in a debate even though I’m not using it, but not sure if I’ll be able to break the old browser habits.    Will you?

Facebook Rules with Social Tools

Today Facebook launches a social media initiative that is significant enough to possibly become a web milestone, depending on how the developer community views and uses all the new capabilities that Facebook is offering to them.

Rafe Needleman‘s got a video of the conference today and Techcrunch will, as usual, have insightful summary of the implications of all this.

Based on my quick first look into what they are up to this really looks like a brilliant move, and a sign they won’t be selling to a bigger player, rather trying to rise up and eat the bigger fish.

If Facebook can capture the imagination of enough developers and become “the” key platform for social media they’ll likely be very glad to have turned down the billion+ dollar buyout offers earlier this year.

At the least Mark Z and his crew deserve huge props for going for the gusto and offering to take the development community along for the ride.  This is not only great stuff for Facebook and social media evangelism, this appears to be consistent with the grand and open internet community vision that one hopes will ultimately prevail.

Microsoft LIVEs!

Paul Graham is ridiculously suggesting that “Microsoft is Dead“.

I remember back in the 90’s when many where suggesting how IBM was dead, and how obvious it was that the Apples and Microsofts and clever upstarts would make IBM obsolete.

As this chart shows IBM has thrived since that time, and though they hardly make the news much anymore it’s very important to note that IBM is a bigger company (measured by capitalization) than the following “big winners”: Google, Apple, Yahoo.

Also notable is the fact that what is probably the best search algorithm in the world belongs to … IBM. It’s called “WebFountain”. It’s not scalable and therefore not an alternative to Google at this time, but one can’t even count IBM out of the *search wars*, let alone Microsoft.

Microsoft isn’t dead. Not even close. Of course it is suffering from the inertia that naturally springs from huge success and dominance, but like IBM it will find new markets, new niches, and will benefit (eventually) from the innovations of it’s competitors as they were able to benefit – hugely – from Microsoft innovations (e.g. free internet browser software on all PCs).

Don Dodge corrects the foolishness, and Tony is right to suggest that MS has plenty of life left.

It’s even possible that Microsoft will win the big game. With the LIVE project, Microsoft’s neural network approach to search may be more advanced than Google’s and although search result quality continues to lag Google’s by a notch it’s simply not clear how search will evolve over the next few years.

China to internet gaming addicts – !/!/! zzzzzZAP!/!/!

USA Today reports that China has the world’s second largest online population after the USA. With 94,000,000 online they’ve decided some of the gaming fanatics might need a bit of electrical incentive to stay offline.

Ha – I kind of like this idea, but I don’t think I can get my son to sit still long enough to attach the electrodes.

But seriously folks, these symptoms sound pretty intense:
“… depression, nervousness, fear and unwillingness to interact with others, panic and agitation. They also have sleep disorders, the shakes and numbness in their hands.”