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December 24, 2009

10 Top New Web Services of 2009 (From My Perspective)

Last year, I highlighted ten top Web services that debuted in the year, from Socialmedian to BackType and Feedly. Not an all-encompassing list, blogging colleague Robert Scoble asked if "I was right", adding on a few of his own.

With 2009 coming to a close, I thought it made sense to highlight some of my own personal favorites which are gaining traction. Keep in mind that I am not ranking these services necessarily in a most important to least important order, and I am ignoring some other top services (for example, Foursquare, which launched in March, or some Zynga properties), due to my own non-use.

As with 2008, many services debuted in 2009 that were not stand-alone services, but instead, hooked into existing environments, like Twitter and Facebook, or the iPhone.

1) Pubsubhubbub

2009 was all about real-time and moving data more quickly from place to place. No technology or service better epitomized that than Pubsubhubbub, an open protocol engineered from a team of Googlers who were looking to accelerate the delivery of updates between services with near-zero latency. Pubsubhubbub's simplicity and clear benefits resulted in many major services adopting it and virtually eliminating the expected wait times for aggregators and readers to get updates, while also reducing the need for said aggregators to repeatedly poll content sources.

Pubsubhubbub, adopted by Blogger, FeedBurner, Cliqset, FriendFeed and many others, also spurred into action the launch of Dave Winer's RSSCloud, adopted by Wordpress for similar purposes. The launch of Pubsubhubbub also fed the growth of Superfeedr, an increasingly popular utility that aims to deliver real-time notifications via the cloud.

2) Google Wave

Google Wave made a huge splash in 2009. (Review) If you weren't trying it out and aiming to find out what value it actually brought, it was probably because you were begging for an invite and hadn't found one yet. The real-time collaboration tool was mischaracterized by many who thought it could replace e-mail, or different social networks' activity, and it hasn't found too many people relying on it as a core service yet, but its innovation has many looking to see what the end game looks like.

3) Square

Although extremely new, Jack Dorsey's follow-up to Twitter, Square, is very alluring. A simple hardware add-on to the iPhone (and in the future, other mobile devices), Square lets any individual accept credit card transactions, verifies the purchaser, and provides the purchaser with an electronic record of the activity via their Web site.

Dorsey and team skillfully looked at a daunting world of differing devices and managed to find the commonalities between them (an audio port to be specific) and delivered something that could potentially change the game for small merchants and individuals, providing true mobile commerce that doesn't require cash.

4) Echo

The launch of JS-Kit's Echo product was such a big move for the company that they changed their name to reflect it. Echo, recognizing the sea change evident in social media that has moved much of the discussion of content away from core blogs, aggregated downstream activity at the host blog, including retweets and other social network reactions.

In addition, Echo brought real-time to everyone's comment stream, turning a once static entity into a live chat room. You can see Echo in action on popular sites including those from Brian Solis and 1938media.

5) my6sense

With more data coming in from more sources than ever, it is unlikely that most people are following fewer people or feeds at the end of 2009 than they were at the beginning of the year. Combined with a rise in mobile Web access, and you can see how my6sense's digital intuition for RSS feeds, Twitter and Facebook makes sense, surfacing relevant data that is customized just for you.

The company has an iPhone app available, free, now, and has publicly promised that Android development is planned in the short term. Keep in mind that I am helping to advise the service, but I have been impressed with their offering, and see the issue of curation as one that many services will tackle in 2010.

6) Brizzly

Brizzly, a product from Thing Labs, is one of the more novel approaches to consuming one's Twitter and Facebook streams. The first to enable in-line viewing of images and video, the addition of customized trend definitions and novel approaches to direct messages and multiple account support, Brizzly is a compelling Web-based alternative to the standard interface from Twitter and competing clients, such as Seesmic.

Earlier in the year, Thing Labs also introduced Plinky, which while cute, doesn't look to be setting the world on fire.

7) Lazyfeed

For a technology supposedly on its last legs, RSS sure had a lot of very interesting innovation in 2009 (See also: Pubsubhubbub and my6sense). Lazyfeed came on the scene this summer with a real-time approach to feed discovery and the ability to follow several topics at once. A live interface and rapidly displayed content has made the product easily among the most fun ways to take in a lot of information, while keeping things "lazy".

With the slowing of central directories like Technorati, Lazyfeed became one of the best sites for me to use to find new sources who were discussing topics I was interested in, letting me add them to my reading list.

8) Flickchart

In May, Flickchart introduced a site for comparing your favorite movies, across time, genres, or even against your previous picks. Although simple, the "pick your favorite" approach became very addicting, and the site now sports more than 40,000 registered users, who have contributed more than 60 million rankings. (See blog post)

One of the unexpected side benefits of Flickchart for me was finding top movies rated by friends which I had never seen, which spurred me to finally add them to my iTunes or NetFlix.

9) Lunch.com and Simler

I am combining both Lunch.com and Simler, as both sites seem to be in their growth stages, and have similar goals - helping you to find interesting people who share the same interests. Lunch.com asks you for your spheres of interests, and to rank specific items on a -5 to +5 scale. In contrast, Simler asks you to add tags that describe your interests, and links you with those others who have also added the same tags.

Both Lunch.com and Simler suggest that you post new items to topic-oriented pages, and engage in discussion with others in your network. Lunch.com seems to be more product-oriented, while Simler is more focused on more abstract things, such as television, music and technology. Simler, like my6sense, is a client of Paladin.

10) Tweetie

If Brizzly was included, it also makes sense that Tweetie makes the list, even if it has no specific Web-only interface. Tweetie has become the gold standard for Twitter clients on the iPhone, and was among the first to incorporate many of the advanced capabilities introduced by Twitter, including Lists, geolocation, and retweets. Tweetie also has a solid Macintosh version, which I use often.

Also on this year's list but outside of the top 10:
Blippy, Cadmus, Cliqset, Gowalla, Salmon, Twazzup

What did I miss, overlook or understimate in 2009? Let me know. I am sure you have some better ideas.