The Phablet Phenomenon

With smartphone screens getting bigger and tablet screens getting smaller, the phablet was probably inevitable. And while their cumbersome and impractical sizes might make them less appealing for everyday use, phablets proved big business this year; in January, ABI Research predicted increased demand across the Asia-Pac market. And they weren’t wrong; with demand growing across Europe and Asia. In fact, Bob O’Donnell, founder of Technalysis Research, has predicted that phablets may even outsell smartphone devices in 2014.

Hackers Can Get You More Followers, Apparently

In February, the official Burger King Twitter account was hacked for over an hour; the hackers changed the profile image and title to that of rival fast food chain McDonald’s. The tweets that were sent out included a bizarre announcement that McDonald’s had bought Burger King because “all of our employees crush and sniff percocets in the bathroom.”

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Once the Burger King team regained control of the account, they deleted all of the tweets written by the hackers, but did take the opportunity to greet the 20,000 people that flocked to follow them during the incident: “Interesting day at BURGER KING, but we’re back! Welcome to our new followers. Hope you all stick around!”

Facebook Home

Mark Zuckerberg’s plans for world domination continued in 2013, with the slow rollout of Facebook Home. “We’re not making a phone and we’re not making an operating system,” said Zuckerberg, before introducing something that essentially turns Android handsets into Facebook-first devices. Facebook Home didn’t quite set the world on fire, but other developments, such as Facebook Messenger’s new functionality that enables users to stay in touch with their phone contacts, means that Facebook is still doing its best to keep up with an increasingly mobile-oriented audience.

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Tumblr Acquired By Yahoo

Marissa Mayer’s first major move as CEO of Yahoo was by no means a conservative one; she acquired David Karp’s short-form blogging platform Tumblr for $1.1 billion. Karp has remained in full control of the platform, which currently hosts more than 108 million individual blogs. Karp maintained at the time that the acquisition will only serve to enhance Tumblr’s culture, and in Yahoo’s defence, the network looks largely the same as it did before.

“We promise not to screw it up,” wrote Marissa Mayer on her own Tumblr blog. “Tumblr is incredibly special and has a great thing going. We will operate Tumblr independently. David Karp will remain CEO. The product roadmap, their team, their wit and irreverence will all remain the same as will their mission to empower creators to make their best work and get it in front of the audience they deserve. Yahoo! will help Tumblr get even better, faster.”

BuzzFeed Goes From Strength To Strength

2013 has, without a doubt, been the year of BuzzFeed, as the news site known for cats and GIFs expanded from the “bored at work” desktop audience to “bored in line” mobile consumers. While its most shared content currently comprises listicles, founder Jonah Peretti is keen to pursue long-form, serious journalism in 2014. Speaking to Wired in October, Peretti addressed claims that BuzzFeed isn’t necessarily “serious” enough:

“Can you take the BBC’s news coverage seriously when they also show Monty Python, Ricky Gervais, and Doctor Who? Can you trust a newspaper with a comics section, a crossword puzzle, and a lifestyle section? The answer, of course, is yes.”

The Return Of Myspace

Myspace is back, everyone, and this time round it has hat every other social network has – a free mobile app. But the important question is; who exactly cares? Myspace was huge eight years ago, back when it still sported a big S, but Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter have stepped in and filled the gap left by its decline.
However, according to new bosses Tim and Chris Vanderhook, Myspace’s big comeback will be much more music-oriented, with an ad-supported radio service called My Radio that shuns algorithms and lets users create their own radio stations. “You become the DJ,” says Tim. Certain musicians seem quite excited by the return of Myspace, but mostly it has been met with a resounding “meh”.

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Introducing Spy-Proof Messaging

Following the global scandal surrounding whistle blower Edward Snowden, developers have been bringing more and more encryption technology into everyday apps, in retaliation against government snooping. Take Silent Circle, for instance; it is a subscription service which encrypts texts, calls, and even videoconferences. User-friendliness is key here: “Not everyone is a crypto geek,” says creator Phillip Zimmerman, “and so there is a need to curate the experience.”

Another encryption alternative is Heml.is, from the co-founder of Pirate Bay. “We’ve decided to build a messaging platform where no one can spy on you, not even us,” says Peter Sunde.

2013 Was The Year Of The Selfie

First, “selfie” made it into the Oxford English Dictionary. Then it was named word of the year. And not long after, US President Barack Obama was spotted taking selfies with other world leaders, at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela. And finally, actor James Franco closed 2013 by posting a not-at-all self-indulgent article to The New York Times website, entitled “The meanings of the selfie.” It’s deep stuff, honest.

What was your favourite social media moment of 2013? Let us know via the comments.