Snapchat skyrockets: The ephemeral messaging app Snapchat has captivated your teenage relatives, and for good reason: They just tap out a message or snap a photo with a funny caption, and set a timer. When the seconds tick down, the message disappears. It's fun, simple, and, most important, private. Snapchat began growing its fanbase last year, but in 2013 the service was inescapable. The app capped the year by rejecting a $3 billion buyout offer from Facebook—not too shabby for a service best known for its more scandalous uses.
Facebook tries something new: Facebook spent the year trying to prove that just because it's the biggest force in social networking doesn't mean it's slowing down. But its efforts to stay fresh have had mixed results. It never fully implemented its highly trumpeted News Feed redesign, though it did end up cherry-picking a few elements to change. Facebook's mobile push went a little too far with Home, which brought the social network to the forefront of Android phones. Home was visually appealing but failed to impress users—and let us not forget the HTC First, the first (and only) phone to come preinstalled with Home. It was quickly discontinued. But Facebook probably isn't all that concerned about its missteps—billions of dollars in revenue would make even the grumpiest shareholder smile.
The ads cometh: We social network users have been coasting along all these years on the free ride that our favorite platforms offer. Facebook? Free. Twitter? Free. Instagram is still free. Vine is definitely free. We offer those networks plenty in return, handing over our most private information so that they can make money. And how do they repay us? Ads. Ads everywhere. This year the major social networks decided they had to step up their money-making efforts. Facebook this month rolled out auto-playing video ads, otherwise known as the scourge of the Internet. Instagram started working ads into streams. Promoted posts, sponsored what-have-you—this is social media as we know it today. If ads ruin everything, we'll look upon 2013 as the beginning of the end.
Path's privacy: Path, once championed as the more private alternative to Facebook, has struggled to find its footing. What started as a photo-sharing app in 2010 has evolved into a Line-esque messaging service with sticker packs galore. Path famously capped the friends list at 150 to maintain a sense of intimacy, but this year the service faced accusations of spamming users' address-book contacts. The incident prompted Facebook to cut off Path's access to its users' friends lists. Path isn't giving up—in September, Path launched a premium tier for members willing to pay $15 a year for unlimited sticker packs and no ads. No word on whether that effort has been successful.
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