Every December, I do a year in review of Internet technology. It’s a tradition going back to 2004, when I posted my first annual review of technology onto ReadWrite. This year I’m doing it slightly differently. I usually pick out ten Internet products that I personally use a lot and enjoy. This year, however, my selection criteria is the ten Internet products that I think have had a defining impact on society and culture in 2015.
This uber-unicorn dominated the tech discourse in 2015. It even prompted my own satiric short story, Uber Off. That aside, Uber is serious business. Not just for usurping the taxi industry, but for being the leading platform for on-demand transportation. If its recent moves into healthcare and food delivery are any indication, it may yet become the on-demand platform.
Messaging was my main Consumer Internet trend of 2015. As I noted in that article, there are a plethora of messaging apps to choose from — and it also depends on where in the world you live. Facebook’s Messenger isn’t the best such product (China’s WeChat has better features), but it’s the one that most of my friends and acquaintances are on.
3. Google Cardboard
Image credit: Slashgear
2015 was yet another year of hype for Virtual Reality — only this time it was based on reality. It’ll all shake out in 2016. But one company that walked the talk this year was Google, in the form of its ingeniously low-cost cardboard VR viewer. There are plenty of apps too. Cardboard is The Real Deal, even if it’s only a fraction of what VR will eventually become.
4. Fitbit Charge HR
The health tracking market matured this year, as I predicted in my bookHealth Trackers. One of the chapters profiled Fitbit, from its inception in 2007 to its diversification into wristbands and smart watches. In 2015 Fitbit ably took the next step up (pun intended), by doing an IPO. Fitbit’s Charge HR wristband was rated best fitness tracker of the year by WT Vox.
Apart from Uber, Slack has been the Internet product I’ve heard the most buzz about this year. Its group messaging system is slick and user friendly — not that I’ve had much of an opportunity to use it, as a solo writer! But many others do. According to Stacklist, it’s by far the most popular internal communication tool for startups.
6. DJI Phantom 3 Advanced Drone
Drones are no longer just the weapon of choice for President Obama. They’re well and truly mainstream now. 2015 saw a significant advance in the technology. As PC Mag put it, “there are models on the market now that put last year’s copters to shame in terms of video quality and stabilisation.”The Wirecutter’s pick for best buy is the $1000 DJI Phantom 3 Advanced.
7. Nest Cam
After being acquired by Google in January 2014, the home automation company Nest has so far produced three different ‘smart’ home products: a thermostat, a smoke alarm and a security camera. It still feels like early days for Nest, but it’s already become a key brand in the emerging smart home market. Its latest product is the Nest Cam, introduced in June this year.
The most interesting e-commerce technology isn’t Jack Dorsey’s Square, butBitcoin — a decentralized digital currency. As a recent Wired story put it, Bitcoin has “been adopted for everything from international money transfers to online narcotrafficking.” Bitcoin hasn’t quite gone mainstream yet, but it continues to grow. The current total value of all bitcoins is nearly $5 billion.
Media consumption on the Internet is still largely guided by social signals, as the success of Facebook shows only too well. It’s as hard as ever to keep track of topics of interest, but Nuzzel has come up with the best attempt yet at taming the social media firehose. Check out Nuzzel’s feed for wearable tech to see for yourself.
10. Apple Watch
Image credit: Forbes
I must admit I didn’t end up buying an Apple Watch, based on the mixed reviews. I figured I’ll wait till version 2 of the product, which with Apple products are historically vastly improved. Regardless, the Apple Watch did make an impact on the market and made watches popular again. It just wasn’t the revolutionary product we’ve come to expect from Apple.
One More Thing…
There you have it, my ten picks for the year’s defining technology products or services. One that just missed the cut was Periscope, Twitter’s video streaming app. While it took the social media world by storm earlier this year, ultimately I don’t think it was as impactful as the ten I’ve listed.
I’ll also add that a lot of tech products have matured into daily go-to resources for me. They may not have stood out in 2015, compared to the above ten products, but I use them regularly. For me these staple Internet products include Evernote, Dropbox, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Netflix, Techmeme, Google Apps, Hootsuite, Feedly, Spotify, Instapaper… the list goes on. The same applies to products that I personally don’t use so much, but which are regulars for other demographics — like YouTube, Snapchat and Wattpad for millennials. It shows how far we’ve come in Internet technology, that there are so many reliable and fun staple products now.
Let me know your own picks for the best tech of 2015, by messaging me on Twitter or in a comment here.