As the year draws to a close it is time to take a look back at the most influential internet moments of 2014. Whether it is a new product launch or just a digital trend, these are the moments that have impacted the web and will help shape the future of the internet in 2015.
It isn’t that influential, it won’t change the way we think about the internet and it will make no impact in the way you run your website… but the fact that some guy managed to get over $55,000 to make a potato salad has got to be worth a mention. Surely this is what the internet is all about?
With its announcement only at the start of December, it is hard to know how big of an impact this will make. For years now people have grown frustrated with having to enter barely legible and generally nonsensical letters and number in order to prove they’re not a robot. Surely there must be a better way? There have been some far more user friendly attempts to protect web forms – from honeypot fields to cookies for comments, but with most popular options, their adoption rate tends to coincide with them being just as bypassable by bots.
With Google’s announcement of the new recaptcha as a single checkbox confirmation that magically confirms that you are not a bot, this could very well change how we use forms online. Only time will tell how successful and sustainable the project will be though.
Somehow, a half naked photograph of a woman managed to be one of the most viewed, shared and talked about pieces of content on the web this year. Although nudity on the web is almost as old as the web itself, this was noteworthy as the woman in questions was Kim Kardashian.
Perhaps it says something about the nature of celebrity and the dominance high profile individuals have on the shaping of the internet and the digital media we consume in general. Or perhaps it shows the true power of online marketing and that the quality of web content is second in importance to the quantity by which users consume it. Either way, let’s hope it doesn’t happen again.
Having only happened at the beginning of December, it’s hard to see the impact the raid on the Pirate Bay will have. The biggest downtime in many years of the largest file sharing network on the web is no doubt big news for online piracy.
Although an instant smorgasbord of direct copies, reskinned versions of other sites and even ‘build your own’ templates appeared, along with the eventual re-emergence of a version of the original site, the fact that the seemingly untouchable file sharing site has been taken down for such a significant period perhaps signals the beginning of a shift in online piracy. Although initial statistics seem to show that online piracy has not reduced, but merely been redistributed, it may be the beginning of the end for traditional torrent sites.
With Google being the primary portal for most of the world’s users to access websites, any algorithmic changes that Google makes through the year is always noteworthy. With the power to make or break companies in a single update, it is almost a prerequisite of all major websites to need to anticipate changes and remould themselves to fit Google’s new image.
It has however been a year devoid of any single new major updates announced, as we’ve previously seen with Panda in 2011, Penguin in 2012 and Hummingbird in 2013. This year was was more the year of refinement of all these algorithms, with Panda reaching the 4.0 mark and reportedly going ‘soft’ on previously penalised websites, while Penguin had it’s first refresh for almost a year and has seemingly started fitting into a rolling update model.
Internet security has always been a significant and developing topic. With Google’s announcement that HTTPS would be used as a positive ranking signal many saw it as the company trying to steer the course of the web, and push towards a secure standard.
With the subsequence prominence of research and debate into the area and the increased adoption of SSL by leading websites, it can easily be assumed that HTTPS will be increasingly seen throughout the next year. Cloudflare have even started offering SSL as part of their free packages, making it far easier for smaller sites to adopt. If it is a step that you are thinking of taking, be sure to implement it properly however as Google have also announced that they will gradually stop supporting and validating the integrity of SHA1 Certificates.
Increasingly, international legislation has been problematic for websites. When a property is accessible throughout the world, it becomes subject to the laws of the country that the user is based in. As there is no standardised international legislation, it means that technically websites should be conforming to all countries’ online laws. In previous years we’ve seen European laws such as the Cookie Law play a key role in shaping websites internationally.
This year the main news has come from the Right To Be Forgotten rulings, forcing Google to accept user submissions to be able to remove listings from the index relating to them personally, raising questions of the freedom of information on the internet as well as the impartial role of Google. European laws have been of impact later on this year as well, with the closure of Google News in Spain following new rules coming into place forcing publishers to charge services such as Google News for showing snippets of information.
This year has been incredibly influential as far as device size goes, with phones like the Nexus 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus blurring the lines even further between phone and tablet. More than ever, websites face the battle of needing to being usable and intuitive on all ranges of technology, no longer dictated by resolution or even screen size, yet requiring to perform efficiently for the device that accessed it.
This year has also seen the rise of wearable tech. Previously, devices such as Google Glass had only really made an impact as a gimicky or niche product. However with the Samsung Gear, LG G Watch, Sony Smartwatch & Apple Watch, a new era of mobile technology is beginning. These devices are less gimmicky and more practical and as they develop, will undoubtedly change how we browse the internet.
Viral fundraising is not particularly a new thing. Kony 2012 was one of the most successful and most viewed charity videos to have ever been created. However a new type of charity fundraising has taken hold this year, with campaigns focused on user generated ‘forfeit’ style videos and photos being shared on social networks in order to encourage donations.
The combination of new ideas that specifically tap into the heart of why people enjoy social networks, while being backed with mass celebrity endorsement, have created campaigns such as the Ice Bucket Challenge and the No Makeup Selfie that far surpasses many similar efforts by corporations.
Hacking has always been a standard in Hollywood films, but in day to day life, little actual hacking is newsworthy or likely to change how people think about the internet. It is the real life Hollywood hacks of 2014 however that have done just this. With the celebrity phone hacks, questions of cloud security were brought to the forefront with security evangelists urging people to use two factor authentication while Apple had to frantically deny that there were flaws in iCloud protection.
Although the celebrity phone hack perhaps raised questions of specific app security, and even moral questions of celebrity privacy, they were not necessarily going to make a dent in the digital landscape alone. However the Sony hacks of December 2014 may have already done just that. Not only has a film been pulled from from general release due to threats, but a whole new stand off has been established between the United States and North Korea. This is the first time cyber terrorism has created an impact in world affairs and perhaps established a precedent for how companies and countries react in the future.
Since the internet began, the freedom of information and the equality of data has been a fundamental part of it’s use. When countries have regulated or restricted it, often other nations, corporations or activists have fought this impingement of the freedom of expression. Although normally thought of as a problem confined to countries with a less than shining record of democracy, debates have taken off throughout the US this year concerning Net Neutrality.
In this instance it is not governments that threaten to control data, but corporations, with it being proposed that internet service providers could charge content suppliers for the speed at which their data could be accessed, allowing ISPs to throttle access to companies who do not pay. Not only does this remove the level playing field of the internet, giving large companies preference over startups, irrespective of what users truly want, but it also effectively allows ISPs to govern traffic to sites and have a complete control over what users access. And this is not merely speculation, as already Netflix have claimed they were extorted by Comcast with traffic being throttled for their users until the company paid up.
Following John Oliver’s takedown of the FCC on his show, the FCC website was crashed with an influx of users petitioning for Net Neutrality, with a resulting 3.7 million comments as well as hundreds of tech and media firms including Google, Amazon, Twitter & Facebook calling to protect users “against blocking, discrimination and paid prioritisation”.
Although taking on some of the biggest lobbyists in America is no easy challenge, the amount of unanimous support has been overwhelming, with even Barack Obama coming out in favour.
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) November 10, 2014
Although the future of Net Neutrality is still uncertain, the extensive support for it and the precedent any new legislation sets, will likely have a massive impact on the future of the internet.
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