In one of ReadWriteWeb's longest-running traditions, every year we review the top Internet companies and their impact over the past 12 months. Today we're announcing the 6th annual Best BigCo, a.k.a. big Internet company. Next week we'll announce Best LittleCo and Most Promising Company.

In 2008 the Best BigCo went to Apple, due largely to the iPhone and App Store. Facebook won in 2007, Google in 2006 and 2004, and Yahoo! in 2005. Who will be Best BigCo of 2009? Will Apple be the first company to win it two years running? Will Google win the honor for a 3rd year? How about Facebook, which grew significantly this year. Let's find out...

Best BigCo of 2009

The ReadWriteWeb team has chosen Google as our Best BigCo of 2009! Google last won it in 2006 and this is the third time we've honored the Mountain View company.

Google is without question the predominant Internet company of our time; in large part because it continues to innovate and stay one step ahead of its competition.

In our top 100 products list for 2009, seven Google products made the cut:

  • Android platform
  • Google App Engine
  • Google Apps
  • Google Chrome
  • Google Maps
  • Google Search Options and Rich Snippets
  • Google Voice

And we didn't even include Google Wave, its biggest launch of the year. We think Wave has a lot of potential, but it's clearly at the experimental stage still.

The web browser Chrome was probably the Google product that had the biggest impact this year. Launched in late 2008, Chrome still only holds a small share of the browser market and doesn't offer a stable version for OSX or Linux yet. However it has already changed the browser market. As we wrote in our Top 10 Consumer Web Apps of 2009 review, Chrome's relentless focus on speed helped to reignite the browser wars, and is changing the way developers and Google's competitors think about browsers.

Chrome is also the basis for Google's upcoming Chrome OS, designed for netbooks - a growing fad in computers. So expect to see a lot more of Chrome in 2010.

Runners-Up: Apple, Facebook

It's been another good year for Apple and its iPhone platform. The iPhone is the leading smartphone in the market and the App Store now features over 100,000 applications. This year, as we mentioned in our Top 10 Web Platforms of 2009 review, Apple extended the SDK with version 3.0 of the iPhone OS. The updates included better support for 3D gaming, augmented reality apps, easier access to maps, in-app purchases and support for push notifications.

With these kinds of improvements, we expect Apple to continue its success on the mobile Web in 2010 - despite increasing competition from Google's Android platform.

Facebook had a stellar year too, passing the 300 million active user mark in September. It also continued to add features to the site, ranging from vanity URLs to a new sharing widget and a focus on real-time updates of its users' news streams.

Facebook's user base is increasingly diverse, and it is now clearly the number one social network in the world, leaving MySpace in its dust. What's more, Facebook's user base is now bigger than the population of all but three countries in the world.

Honorable Mentions: Microsoft, Amazon, Adobe

While Microsoft continued to struggle with its Windows Live brand, it did come out with at least one compelling new product in 2009.

Until earlier this year, Google didn't have any serious competition in the search market. But with the launch of Microsoft's Bing in July, users suddenly had a new choice of search engine. Bing bills itself as a "decision engine" and its market share has climbed steadily over the last few months. Microsoft keeps adding interesting new features like visual search, hover previews, integrated Twitter search and a smart integration of some of Wolfram Alpha's most compelling features.

We also recognized Windows Azure, Microsoft's cloud computing platform, among our Top Products of 2009.

Amazon had another good year in 2009. Its Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) was one of our top 100 products this year. However Amazon had the most impact this year with a piece of hardware: its e-book reader, the Kindle. In May, Amazon unveiled the Kindle DX, featuring a 9.7-inch display that is about two-and-a-half-times larger than the Kindle 2. November was Amazon's best month ever for Kindle sales, and, according to the company, the Kindle is the "most wished for, the most gifted, and the #1 bestselling product across all product categories on Amazon."

Very few Web platforms have the cross-platform reach of Adobe AIR. It allows developers to create one application and run it on all of the major operating systems. This year Adobe launched AIR 2, which now allows developers to access mass storage devices, drag-and-drop support for remote files and rudimentary support for P2P networking. In addition, AIR 2 enables developers to use the multi-touch capabilities of modern screens.

Also Rans

Unfortunately, the less said about Yahoo!, AOL, Mozilla, eBay - the better. It hasn't been a great year for any of them.

Yahoo! struggled gamely and impressed us with its YQL (Yahoo Query Language) and SearchMonkey. But it is far from the Internet force it was in 2005, when we named it our Best BigCo. Yahoo still has a wide reach and is very popular amongst mainstream audiences, but it just isn't the force it once was.

AOL has resorted to becoming a content farm in order to compete, eBay has squandered a valuable asset in Skype, and Mozilla - while continuing to innovate - has been hurt by Google's Chrome browser entering the market.

Now let us know your thoughts. Do you think that Google deserves the Best BigCo of 2009?

Ed: Thanks Frederic Lardinois, one of our writers whose year-end posts I liberally quoted from to create this article!