Home Best BigCo of 2008: Apple

Best BigCo of 2008: Apple

Every year we do a review of the top Internet companies, to identify the ones we think had the biggest impact. Today we’re announcing the Best BigCo of 2008 and next week we’ll announce Best LittleCo and Most Promising Company – all selected by the ReadWriteWeb writers.

In 2007 the Best BigCo went to Facebook, due to the launch and subsequent impact of its development platform. Google won Best BigCo of 2006 and 2004. In between, in 2005, Yahoo! won the award. This year we’ve chosen Apple, which almost single-handedly brought the Mobile Web to life in 2008.

Google was once more in top contention for Best BigCo. In fact Google launched a number of innovative things in ’08 and so it could easily have taken this award again. We also felt that Facebook and Adobe had strong years, which we’ll expand on below.

Why Apple Won

Apple has revolutionized two major industries in recent years, using Web technology: first music with iTunes/iPod, then mobile phones with iPhone. The iTunes/iPod success story started a number of years ago and, no surprise, this year it continued its dominance of online music. But it’s the iPhone story which really tipped the scales for Apple in 2008 – and we think it made Apple a true Internet powerhouse.

The iPhone was first launched in January 2007 and in last year’s awards we gave Apple an ‘Honorable Mention’ for it, noting that it was the biggest product launch of 2007 and a catalyst for a lot of new Mobile Web development activity. However it wasn’t until 2008 that the iPhone truely reached a mainstream audience, when the new 3G iPhone was announced in June and then launched to much acclaim in July.

Perhaps even more significant than the phone itself (which featured 3G, black or white shell and a more rounded design, plus cheaper pricing for U.S. customers) was the simultaneous launch of the Apple App Store. There were 552 applications available at launch and at time of writing that’s risen to over 10,000 applications. So in less than 6 months, the number and variety of iPhone apps has expanded greatly. Indeed, any startup worth its salt has an iPhone version of its web app.

For many years now everybody (including us) has been predicting that the next year will be the one that the Mobile Web breaks through. Well finally, 2008 was that year – and it’s in large part due to the Apple iPhone and the blossoming of 10,000 apps.

Runner-up: Google


Google had another great year in technology terms. In particular Google made a lot of progress developing open platforms: the 3 prominent examples being Open Social (an open standard for social networking widgets, which was adopted by MySpace, Bebo and others), Android (an open source OS for mobile, that is already a threat to iPhone), and the launch of the Chrome browser in September. Whereas in 2007 the iPhone was the year’s biggest product launch, we’d have to say that Chrome was the biggest new product of 2008.

Google was busy on many other fronts in 2008. It launched App Engine and Friend Connect, Google Apps continued to ramp up (we named it one of the top 10 Enterprise products of the year), there have been numerous Gmail and Labs features released this year, and Google even changed up its core search product with SearchWiki (which enables users to add notes to and modify the order of their search results). So in the end it was a close decision to award Best BigCo to Apple, over Google.

Honorable Mentions: Facebook, Adobe


Facebook, last year’s Best BigCo, continued to become more popular throughout 2008. It largely kept pace with Google in the ‘social networking wars’, by launching Facebook Connect in July and making some key partnerships – in particular with Microsoft, but also with the likes of Salesforce.com, digg and Hulu. Facebook didn’t neglect its core product either, launching chat in April and a website re-design in July – among other upgrades. Facebook’s one major slip-up, the ill-fated contextual advertising program nick-named Beacon, came right at the end of last year and was quickly swept under the carpet.

So all up, a satisfactory year for Facebook – especially when you consider the big pressure brought on it by Google’s Open Social. Update: it’s just been reported that Facebook has reached 140 million active users and is growing at a rate of 600,000 users each day.


2008 was the year in which Adobe’s ‘Rich Internet App’ strategy bore some juicy fruit, with many compelling apps released that were built using AIR (Adobe Integrated Runtime). AIR is a platform that makes it easy to build attractive Internet connected applications that live outside the browser. Last year we noted its potential – AIR was called ‘Apollo’ for much of its beta – but in February 2008 AIR was officially launched and soon we saw a lot of stunning apps emerge. For examples, check out:

Also of note, Adobe released an online office suite and made Flash searchable. So overall Adobe had one of its best years for a while, we think.

The Others: Microsoft, AOL, Amazon, Mozilla, Yahoo!, eBay

Other Internet bigcos mostly had good years, but without any major breakthroughs.

Microsoft released a couple of major Web platforms in Live Mesh and Azure, so it’ll be interesting to watch how those evolve next year. Windows Live, its clumsily branded Internet division, continued to ripple away without making too many waves. Last year we remarked in the BigCo post that “in 2008 we’re hoping to see more product evidence of the undoubted ability of Ray Ozzie and co to innovate on the Web.” We don’t think we quite saw that though. Maybe in 2009!

Meanwhile Amazon’s web services stack continued to evolve, Mozilla’s Firefox went from strength to strength, AOL bought Bebo and later launched a development platform. We can’t say that any of those companies overly impressed, but each had decent years.

The two bigcos that struggled the most were Yahoo! and eBay. Yahoo! had a lot of upheaval inside its business, but despite that it continued to release innovative web products and initiatives – such as SearchMonkey and Yahoo! Open Strategy (Y!OS). Let’s hope the business side of Yahoo! can sort itself out, because we know there are a lot of talented and Web-loving people in the company. eBay probably had the worst year of all the bigcos, but even it launched a development platform.


We hope you agree with our choice of Apple as Best BigCo of 2008. It’s not an Internet company per se, but the impact Apple has had on the Web this year has been nothing short of revolutionary. Google can count itself a little unlucky not to take the BigCo crown for the third time in five years, however it too had an outstanding year.

Tell us your thoughts in the comments about these Web giants.

About ReadWrite’s Editorial Process

The ReadWrite Editorial policy involves closely monitoring the tech industry for major developments, new product launches, AI breakthroughs, video game releases and other newsworthy events. Editors assign relevant stories to staff writers or freelance contributors with expertise in each particular topic area. Before publication, articles go through a rigorous round of editing for accuracy, clarity, and to ensure adherence to ReadWrite's style guidelines.

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