mardi 29 novembre 2011

Top 10 Consumer Web Products of 2011

BestOf2011.pngOur annual Best Of series continues with the top 10 Web products that revolutionized old services and created new ones this year. Yesterday, Richard MacManus rounded up the top 10 social Web products, featuring services that focus on social networking and community building. This round-up is about the Web products that changed the things we do online.
The categories vary here from browsers to cloud drives to mobile apps and more. But all of these services redefined a core use case for the Web, and some of them invented activities we didn't know we needed. Here are our top 10 Consumer Web Products of 2011:
Alcatel-Lucent With the launch of the Alcatel-Lucent Developer Platform, Alcatel-Lucent provides service providers and enterprises with tools that enable third-party developers to build, test, manage and distribute applications across networks, including television, broadband Internet and mobile.
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1. Chrome

This year, Google decided to make Chrome the most important Web browser in the world. It rocketed upwards in market share, now neck and neck with Firefox in the #2 browser spot, and if anyone can take down Internet Explorer, Google can.
Chrome released new features at a blistering pace this year. Its core mission in 2011 was to focus on Web apps. Google has renovated its Chrome Web Store for apps, as well as the New Tab page, where Chrome Web apps are launched. It's blurring the line between Web and native applications.
Some developers are working on a tablet-based version of Chrome that could bring the browser and its Web app ecosystem to all kinds of devices. Chrome in the Android ecosystem would be obvious, but the latest Google app for iPad looks just like Chrome, too, Web apps and all. Sneaky, eh?
Upcoming features include new APIs for text-to-speech and advanced audio features. Just this month, Google bought Apture, which could bring media-rich contextual search into every page in Chrome. And multiple accounts are coming to Chrome soon, so users can easily carry their browser data with them across devices.
webppenguin150.jpgThanks in large part to the passionate work of outside developers, Chrome (and its open-source Chromium code base) is even influencing the way the Web in general works. Chrome and Firefox developers are working together on Web Intents, standard protocols to let independently developed Web apps communicate with each other. It's also pushing a new image format to make the whole Web faster by reducing the file size of images.
Browser choice is a personal matter for users, but no other browser comes close to Chrome's influence on the state of the art.

2. Dropbox

dropbox150.jpgDropbox is hot, and this year cemented its importance. By choosing a metaphor with which most computer users were already familiar, Dropbox has become a key player in the consumer cloud. It's a folder that syncs to the Internet. That's all there is to it. People and teams use it for backup as well as for syncing files across devices.
Its flexibility has also allowed Dropbox to become the back-end - the file system that wasn't - for exciting new apps and services, especially on mobile devices. Amazing life-hacking services like 1password use Dropbox for syncing. So do all the great third-party text apps for iOS, which doesn't have a native Google Docs client like Android does. There are even experimental blogging tools and website hosting services built on Dropbox.
Is Dropbox really the world's 5th most valuable startup, as Business Insider named it this year? We don't know yet. It has had some hiccups, such as a privacy scare earlier this year. But we also learned this year that Dropbox turned down a nine-digit acquisition offer from Steve Jobs in 2009. That's confidence.

3. iCloud

icloud_150_oct11.jpgAfter being rebuffed by Dropbox, Apple set out to build its own file syncing between Macs and its iOS devices, replacing the embarrassing MobileMe desktop syncing service. iCloud shipped with iOS 5 in October of this year, and it's an effort to be even more basic than Dropbox. It's not even a folder; it just pushes files along behind the scenes, so your stuff is just there when you open apps to use it, whether on Mac OS or iOS.
icloud_jillscott.jpgIt can sync contacts, calendars, media, documents, and even settings, as long as this syncing is written into the app. Apple's own apps use it, and though third-party apps haven't done much with it yet, they will. The first full third-party implementation of iCloud shipped just yesterday in iA Writer for iPad and Mac.
The service has more kinks in it than Dropbox, and it's not cross-platform. But this it's-just-there syncing paradigm will form the backbone of Apple's vision of computing, and that vision is infectious. The iPad and iPhone are selling in huge quantities, smashing Apple's own estimates. Even Macs are gaining marketshare. 2012 will be a big year for Apple, and iCloud will be the Web service that supports it.
If you use Apple devices and haven't set up iCloud, here's how to get started.

4. Kindle

amazonkindle150.jpgWe're used to thinking of the Kindle as a product, a device. But this year, Amazon made clear that Kindle is a service, not a product. Unlike Apple, for whom software is the service that sells profitable devices, Amazon will break even, or even take a loss, on each device in order to put its media and retail services in users' hands.
Kindles are just windows into Amazon's stores. You can save $30 on your device just by accepting ads as your screensaver. And this year, Amazon added the 7-inch, full-color Kindle Fire to the family, expanding the Kindle service to video, music, magazines, games and apps. It builds on the existing Amazon Prime video streaming service and its Cloud Drive for music.
The Kindle Fire also introduced Amazon Silk, a cloud-accelerated Web browser that uses browsing history to predictively pre-load Web pages for faster browsing on slow, handheld devices. Amazon has always known that load time can make or break a sale, so the Kindle service is designed to make buying, watching, reading and listening through Amazon as convenient as possible.

5. Evernote

evernote_150.jpgYou may not know it yet, but Evernote will be around for a while. In fact, its CEO wants it to be around for 100 years. It's another syncing service, but it's not like the others above. It works across platforms, unlike iCloud, and it works inside files, instead of agnostically pushing them around like Dropbox.
Evernote lets users create and store rich-text files, images, to-do lists, whatever kinds of little files they need, and it syncs to all their devices. It packs impressive technology like optical character recognition, letting users snap pictures of notes, receipts or business cards and capture the text. It offers handy services like web clipping and an Instapaper-like service for saving articles for later. And it offers standalone apps and browser extensions, letting users access it however best fits their workflow.
What's next for Evernote? If you have an idea, build it yourself. Evernote is building a 100-year platform to let its users capture anything and access it anywhere.
Next Page: Five services that changed the way we find and share stuff on the Web this year.

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