From political uprisings to billion-dollar acquisitions, social media packed a bigger punch in 2012 than ever before. While that comes as no surprise considering that social is still snaking its way into every nook and cranny of our lives, it was a pretty fascinating year viewed through the lens of online networks that connect people the world over.
1. January 18, 2012: The Web Goes Dark To Halt SOPA
Future politicians take note: you do not want to be the target of the Web's collective fury. To raise visibility for the cause against the Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA) and its companion bill, the Protect IP Act (PIPA), social sites the web over blinked out in protest. Reddit, Tumblr and countless other sites went dark while the ones that stayed online were lit up with sentiment in opposition to the pieces of legislation, which was then delayed indefinitely.
2. May 18, 2012: Facebook Goes Public
In May, Facebook held its initial public offering, placing its value square in the hands of the masses. Opening at $38 a share with a valuation of $104.2 billion, Facebook's IPO was the third biggest in U.S. history and the biggest ever for a tech company. The company's stock dipped considerably thereafter, but has been inching upward as investors and users alike try to figure out how exactly to make sense of a social network in the stock market.
3. April 2012: Facebook Buys Instagram To The Tune Of $1 Billion
Speaking of billions, in April Facebook bought social photo sharing app Instagram for $1 billion -- the social giant's biggest acquisition to date. As the Web squabbles over how much the app is really worth (sound familiar?), Facebook neutralizes a threat and boosts its image by gobbling up one of the best-loved apps around... and promising not to mess it up.
4. April 2012: Pinterest Swells To #3 Most Visited Social Site
Pinterest surprised everyone in 2012 when it ascended to the third most-visited social network on the web, trailing only Facebook and Twitter. Pinterest's explosion may not have lasting power, but with a (very) disproportionately female user base, its rise has big implications for both e-commerce and the fairer's sex's swagger on social networks.
5. August 6, 2012: Curiosity Rover Lands On Mars As The World Looks On
The world collectively held its breath when NASA took to social channels to stream the touchdown of the Mars rover Curiosity. The high-stakes, $2.5 billion interplanetary recon mission landed with a perfect 10, announcing its safe arrival on the planet to the Twittersphere. The rover, with a little help from social media-savvy NASA, has continued to tweet up a storm about its Martian adventure ever since.
I'm safely on the surface of Mars. GALE CRATER I AM IN YOU!!! #MSL
— Curiosity Rover (@MarsCuriosity)
6. October 29, 2012: Superstorm Sandy's Havoc Captured On (Mobile) Camera
When it comes to natural disasters, the scope of devastation can often only be expressed through images. As Hurricane Sandy barreled into the East Coast, Instagram conveyed the vast damage in real-time as the rest of the nation watched on and waited. Sandy was Instagram's biggest moment to date - according to CEO Kevin Systrom, at its peak, users were uploading 10 Sandy-related images per second.
7. Citizen Journalism Keeps Its Steam In Syria And Egypt
Embattled countries in the Middle East found a global voice in 2011 on sites like Twitter and Facebook, and that momentum carried well into 2012. In Syria, activists turned citizen journalists disseminated news and images of the ongoing conflict with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's violently oppressive government -- even into a nationwide Internet blackout. In June, Egyptians followed the first election of the post-Mubarak era on Twitter with bated breath. And in November, both the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Hamas weaponized tweets and blog entries into an escalating social media branding war as tensions hit a fever pitch.
8. November 2012: Presidential Election Smashes Twitter Records
The 2012 U.S. Presidential election saw people bleeding red and blue on social networks in droves. But the spikes of activity stirred up during the party conventions and the debates between candidates were nothing compared to the election night surge. Obama's simple victory tweet, attached to a picture of the second-term President and the First Lady, smashed retweet records and has since been shared over 800,000 times. On election night, Twitter-goers set a frenzied record of 327,452 tweets per minute with over 31 million sent over the course of the day. Whoa.