Top five shockers of 2010

Faith Merino · December 29, 2010 · Short URL:

Google and Groupon account for 80% of the following stories

2010 has been a year of surprises and shockers--like, did you hear that Natalie Portman is pregnant?! Totally caught me off guard. But that's not the kind of surprise I'm going to cover here (still shocked, though...she's at the height of her career!). What were the biggest stories of 2010, and who were the big movers and shakers?

1. Google pulls out of China

As a major Internet giant, Google has been the target of a fair number of attacks, but a highly sophisticated cyber attack in mid-December caught its attention.  Upon investigation, Google determined that the purpose of the attack was to access the Gmail accounts of a number of human rights activists in China. Furthermore, Google discovered that several Gmail accounts of activists around the world who lobby for human rights in China had been routinely accessed by third party users through phishing scams and malware. That was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back, and in March, Google withdrew its operations from China. The move was fraught with risks--China is one of the largest Internet communities in the world; a pullout from Google translates to massive revenue losses. But it was a great moment for the "Don't be evil" mantra. Today, Google provides uncensored search results for users in China from its offices in Hong Kong.

2. Judge rules in favor of YouTube in Viacom copyright infringement lawsuit

In June, Google-owned YouTube won a lawsuit brought by Viacom, which sued the company for copyright infringement. Specifically, Viacom was in an uproar over Google's policy of allowing copyrighted material to be posted on YouTube and putting the burden of spotting the clips and requesting their removal on the backs of the copyright holders. In February 2007, Viacom collected some 100,000 copyrighted videos posted on YouTube and sent one all-encompassing take-down notice to YouTube, which removed almost all of the videos by the next business day. U.S. District Judge Louis L. Stanton ruled that YouTube's mere knowledge of infringing activity was not enough to warrant its censure, and that YouTube had no way of knowing whether users were posting copyrighted materials or simply making fair use of the materials. Several observers saw the win as a victory for a censorship-free Internet, particularly for the rise of social networking sites where images, videos, and music is shared freely. 

3. Google attempts to buy Groupon and bites it

Rumors began bubbling up in October about Yahoo's interest in Groupon, peaking in November with talk of Yahoo's unofficial offer to buy Groupon for a rumored $3-4 billion. The rumors fizzled out with a Yahoo/Groupon partnership, but they were soon followed by talk of Google's interest in Groupon. In early December, reports emerged that Google had offered to buy Groupon for $2.5 billion, which rapidly escalated to $6 billion. But ultimately, Google was jilted and Groupon walked away, leading many to question the company's future and how it plans to stay on top of its rivals, who are sure to erode Groupon's hold on the collective buying market. The move has led one Ivy League business professor to count Andrew Mason among the worst CEOs of 2010.

4. Third generation Kindle is Amazon's best-selling item of all time

Amazon announced on December 27 that the latest version of its popular e-reader, the Kindle, has become the highest-selling item on Amazon ever, even eclipsing sales of the last Harry Potter book (which sold 2.5 million copies on Amazon). Shortly before the announcement, reports emerged that Amazon is on track to sell eight million Kindles this year, compared to 2.4 million Kindles in 2004. While Amazon doesn't release sales data, it has repeatedly stated that the third-generation Kindle is outperforming not only other Kindles, but all other products on Amazon. In mid-December, Amazon announced that more Kindles had been sold in the last 73 days than all of 2009.  Additionally, the company noted that on Christmas Day 2010, more Kindles were turned on for the first time and more Kindle e-books purchased than on any other single day in history. Amazon added that it sold 13.7 million items on Cyber Monday (Nov 29), which translates to 158 items per second. 

5. Groupon looking to raise almost $1 billion in financing

Shortly after the world recoiled in horror when Groupon rejected a $6 billion buyout offer from Google (the mouse-click heard 'round the world...), the company filed a certificate to authorize a $950 million Series G round of preferred stock which could raise the company's valuation as high as $7.8 billion. Andrew Mason confirmed the report Tuesday via Twitter: "Groupon is in the process of completing a new round of financing--we'll let everyone know when there's more to announce." A series D filing revealing the exact amount could become available as early as next week, according to VC Experts, the private equity and venture capital site that broke the story. The financing is believed to be in the interest of Groupon's overseas expansion as the company swallows up clones and solidifies its footholds in more than 300 markets around the world. But the clones are many and they're nipping at Groupon's heels. LivingSocial, Groupon's most formidable opponent, recently raised $183 million in financing from Amazon and Lightspeed Venture Partners, and several others are coming up with new and innovative ways to expand and streamline the daily deals platform. If Groupon wants to stay on top, it's going to have to invest more heavily in tech. 

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