If you can’t remember exactly where you spent most 2012, or with whom, or what you were doing during that time, don’t worry, some of the most popular web companies in the world — Google, Facebook and Twitter — have all trucked out special year-in-review features this week that show the activity on their networks both globally and for individual users, if they so choose to reminisce digitally.
And, true to their unique features, each of the companies put a different spin on summarizing the entirety of 2012 from their perspectives.
TPM presents an overview of all three:
“We hope you enjoy exploring what people around the world were searching for in 2012,” wrote Google’s senior vice president of search and fellow Amit Singhal in a blog post on Wednesday introducing Google’s special annual feature: The Google 2012 Zetigest website, the search giant’s twelfth annual roundup so far, which includes country-by-country breakdowns of the most popular unique searches as well as lists of the top 10 popular terms in different categories, such as “People,” “Feature Films,” “Images,” etc.
Google on Wednesday released the following year-end video along with its Zeitgest:
All in all, Google served up some 1.2 trillion unique searches in 146 languages.
“It’s quite a snapshot of what makes us human: a blend of guilty pleasures and higher pursuits,” Singhal wrote of the Zeitgest, pointing out such top global search terms as the late Whitney Houston, Red Bull skydiver Felix Baumgartner, the SOPA protests, the U.S. elections and Hurricane Sandy.
Indeed, Google itself took steps to become more appealing in areas of human life throughout 2012. It pushed its Google Plus (Google+) social network hard into its other popular services such as YouTube; renaming its Android Market app store the friendlier-sounding “Google Play” and evolving the Android smartphone operating system and device ecosystem dramatically by debuting a predictive alert system called Google Now. The company also introduced a whole new lineup of Google-branded hardware (the Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 tablets, Chromebooks), and even teased Google Glass, the company’s hi-tech glasses designed to remove barriers between humans and technology, for a 2013 debut. To that end, Google also spent a lot of time improving its maps.
Facebook released two major “Year In Review” features on Wednesday, one summarizing trends across the social network globally on “Facebook Stories,” the new website Facebook launched in August to highlight and collect remarkable content and experiences shared by its users.
“Facebook Stories 2012” shows off the best of the year, also broken-down into top-ten lists in different categories like Google. Except Facebook’s top-10 lists for 2012 are more playful, including a “Memes” category, and much more visual, with graphs and larger images. See a few examples below:
Another feature Facebook released to celebrate 2012, “The Year In Review Timeline” allows individual users to see all of their activity on Facebook over the course of the year in a quick, visually rich snapshot (promo image below):
The background features a mosaic of photos the user posted to Facebook during the year, which smoothly fade in and out to show other photos, echoing the effect employed on the new Instagram Web Profiles that debuted in November, after Facebook closed its huge acquisition of Instagram.
The world’s largest social network, which surpassed 1 billion users (now up to 1.01 billion) in 2012, teamed up with Katie Couric for a special episode of the ABC News show “Katie” due to air on Wednesday (video ad below):
Facebook previously teamed up with ABC News’ “Good Morning America” in May to promote its new “Organ Donor” Life Event status update, with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg even giving a rare on-camera interview in which he discussed aspects of his personal life.
The company itself went through many other changes in 2012, not all of them so smooth: The eight-year-old company went public on the NASDAQ in May in a much-hyped initial public offering (IPO) that was plagued by technical glitches and then, a massive loss in investor confidence and other allegations of mismanagement. Facebook did see other successes, however: it introduced its own app store, the App Center; launched the now familiar new “Timeline” view for all users; took steps to make its operations greener; and finally, abolished the right for users to vote on future changes, right before sneaking in a privacy settings change at the end of the year.
As Twitter’s editorial director Karen Wickre summarized how the company viewed its year in a blog post:
“Every day, we’re amazed and humbled by the many ways in which people use Twitter, which range from simply retweeting to igniting conversations with hashtags (even around lesser-known topics) to sharing spectacular and far-flung views. In 2012, everyone on Twitter brought us closer to moments and places that used to be far away or inaccessible”
Twitter worked with a development company called Vizify allowing users to view their own “Year on Twitter,” a highlight of their activity and most-used words in the 140-character long messages. As some have noted, however, the feature only includes the past 3,200 tweets (promotional image below):
Twitter’s staff also put together a special website, “2012 Year On Twitter,” summarizing the global trends on the social network over the year (promotional image below):
It shows everything from the most-retweeted individual tweets (“Golden Tweets”); to the most-tweeted about events and memes (“Pulse of the Planet”); to the top “Trends,” (with a capital “T,” Twitter’s own hot, most-tweeted about topics at any given moment).
One section also highlights a new feature Twitter unveiled earlier in May, “Only On Twitter,” similar in concept to “Facebook Stories,” in that it collects and showcases the best content published originally on Twitter, from conversations and debates between users to images and events.
As for Twitter the company, it spent 2012 alternatively playing the hero and the villain to its users and fans, redesigning its website and logo, valiantly but unsuccessfully defending an “Occupy Wall Street” protester’s tweets from court-ordered access by police and investigators, launching a new Transparency Report modeled after Google’s, and offering users a bevy of new features, from embedded media to their own Photo Filters.
But Twitter also was criticized for steps it took to control and, in the company’s words “simplify” and increase the “consistency” of Twitter’s user experience across its website and mobile apps. Those steps included tweaking Twitter’s API (application programming interface) so that third-party apps could no longer have unbridled access to tweets, clamping down harder on its developer rules, and even cutting out support for popular features that plugged into Twitter from other apps, such as finding Twitter friends who also used other social networks such as Instagram and Tumblr.
While all of the companies were quick to highlight the great and powerful moments that users experienced, created or shared on their respective websites, few shared any plans for what users can expect from them in 2013. For that, users will just have to wait and see. (Or they can head over to LinkedIn.)