It's the end of a big week here at ReadWriteWeb. For one, we just got acquired by SAY Media. As I sit here thinking about what happened in 2011 and what's to come in 2012, I keep in mind the simple fact that soon ReadWriteWeb will be operating under a very clean look and feel in this brave new tech world. What does that have to do with 2012 predictions? Not much. Just thought I'd remind you about the state of tech news right here and now.

Which brings me to my 2012 predictions for Facebook, e-commerce, location and social networks, the four areas I've been watching closely since I joined the rad team at ReadWriteWeb this past October. Come along to the next page!

Facebook

To say this has been a big year for Facebook would be an understatement. So, I will not say it.

In the context of the 2011 social network battle of 2011, Facebook lost in the Identity category (you can't use pseudonyms on Facebook). In the Sharing category, however, Facebook came out as the obvious winner.

At the f8 developers' conference this past September, Facebook announced the launch of new Timeline profiles, frictionless sharing, Spotify integration and its vision for Facebook's Open Graph platform. A few months after f8, Facebook hired the engineers and developers behind Gowalla. (As a result, Gowalla will shut down.)

What Will Happen In 2012? In short: A lot. Facebook is aggressively hiring and is expected to go public in 2012 with a ridiculously high $100 billion valuation. I predict that frictionless sharing will continue to ramp up, especially in the areas of news and video-sharing. With the expert Gowalla engineers and designers onboard, I can see Facebook tweaking its Timeline so it's better at actually telling stories rather than just presenting people with a ton of visual information. The news feed will probably become more customizable and personalized, giving users some of the control they demand. I think Facebook will converge its UIs into a single platform, and everything will be optimized for mobile. In fact, mobile will be Facebook's number one focus. The long-rumored Facebook phone will finally come out, but it will bomb. By the end of 2012, I predict that Facebook will hit the 1 billion user mark.

E-Commerce

Groupon went public in early November, further solidifying the site's place in the daily deals war with LivingSocial, Google Offers and Amazon Local.

In 2012, I predict that Groupon and LivingSocial will scale back on employees. Then it will increase the frequency and personalization of its deals. In fact, I predict that personalization and time-limited, location-based deals will be key for the future of daily deals.

Social networking-turned-flash sale sites like Fab.com will continue to grow.

The Facebook-EBay integration will be Facebook's last attempt at f-commerce before it finally gives up.

Digital customer loyalty programs like Belly will grow as merchants realize that they need a way to keep their customers coming back. In 2012, I predict that mobile commerce and couch commerce will explode.

Location

With Gowalla out of the picture, Foursquare will completely take over the location space with more partnerships like 2011's Groupon/Foursquare hook up. As a result, location will become less of its own category and more of just something that's baked into e-commerce and social networks. Location-based games like SCVNGR will continue expanding, which will help push mobile payments completely mainstream.


Social Networks


Nowadays, there's a social network for practically everything. From social networks for news to professional favors (don't get the wrong idea, k?) and regular ol' Q&A, perusers of the social Web feel overwhelmed. Few of these "other" social networks will survive unless they really do have a strong niche focus.

I predict that Facebook, Google+ and Twitter will grow and thrive in 2012. Pinterest, a relative newcomer to the social network game (it actually bills itself as a social bookmarking site) will also keep expand. I also predict that we'll start seeing more visually focused, tablet-friendly user interfaces like Delicious'. People will increasingly access social networks from their mobile devices and tablets.

What do you think will happen in 2012? Do you agree or disagree with my predictions? Let me know in the comments below.