The social networking market expanded and matured over the course of 2011 as new entries made a splash and established players consolidated their power.
A new set of challenges and demands emerged for businesses and service providers, while consumers saw old problems and shortcomings continue to plague their favourite sites.
The biggest social networking news of the year came from Google, which made its long-awaited debut with the summer release of Google+. The service offered a more secure and business friendly take on social networking by letting users carefully organise contacts.
Google+ offers improved integration with other Google applications, such as Gmail and Google Talk, and shows plenty of promise in the way of new features for 2012.
Facebook, not to be outdone, looked to strengthen its hold on the market with the addition of new features and redesigns.
The site expanded group functionality, and added video chat powered by a deal with Skype allowing users to directly connect for conferences with friends and contacts.
But there was no shortage of headaches for Facebook. The company's long-running problems with privacy came to a head during the year, and it struggled with authorities in the EU and the US over the handling of user data and privacy controls.
Hackers and malware writers also took aim at Facebook. Hacktivist groups such as Anonymous targeted the site, while the criminals behind the Zeus malware launched several attacks on Facebook users. Even chief executive Mark Zuckerberg had his account breached on two occasions, proving that nobody on Facebook was completely safe.
Privacy issues will be a major concern for Facebook as the company prepares to go public next year with an initial public offering that promises to be among the most lucrative in computing history.
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