We review the highlights and horrors from the wonderful world of the internet and e-commerce over the past 12 months…

Swine of the year

Senate Majority leader Bill Frist helped create a platform for a multi-billion dollar underground gambling industry by hiding anti-betting laws in a port security bill.

Entrepreneur of the year
A joint award must surely go to YouTube’s Chad Hurley and Steve Chen for the $1.65bn Gootube sell-off. Let’s also give an honourable nod towards Y Combinator’s Paul Graham for the success of his low-rent approach to start-up investments. And big love to the UK massive: Ed Freyfogle, Philip Wilkinson, Martin Stiksel, Michael Birch, and all the others… 

Acquisition of the year
Again, it has to be YouTube, despite what Mark Cuban thinks. Of course, it could go pear-shaped for Google but unless it stands still the video sharing site should go from strength to strength.

Trend of the year

2006 saw the return of the VCs, with a raft of start-up investments on both sides of the Atlantic. And despite price inflation and talk of a bubble (it’s a ‘boom’ goddammit), it seems investors are taking a more discerning approach this time around. The year also saw more installments in the general demise of ‘big media’, with most publishers still failing to properly grasp the joys of the internet. It isn’t an either/or proposition, folks.

Error of the year

AOL managed to upset thousands of users by releasing their search histories, as well as highlighting its customer service problems through the Vincent Ferrari audio tape. Carphone Warehouse also deserves a dishonourable mention for its free broadband fiasco.

Gaff of the year

Both Wal-Mart and Virgin had to backtrack after ill-advised social media experiments, although they weren’t the only ones…

Disappointment of the year

US lawmakers failed to enshrine the principle of net neutrality in legislation this year – let’s hope they make the right decisions in 2007. Meanwhile the Senate passed a ridiculous and hypocritical gambling ban that made shareholders weep and executives incarcerated. We also saw very little movement towards new reporting standards for Web 2.0 features, despite the admirable smiting of the page impression by ABCe.

Non-event of the year

Yahoo! admitted it had been doing a lot of nothing this year – including not releasing its new advertising platform and not buying Facebook, but it still has some of the coolestwebsites going. Also, wasn’t this meant to be the year when iTV and mobile advertising took off? Oh no, that was 2002 / 3 / 4 / 5. Maybe 2007 then… or maybe not.

Dinosaur of the year

While Google churned out an endless (some might say ‘baffling’) supply of product releases, there was still no sign of Microsoft’s Vista. ITV also merits a special mention for allowing FriendsReunited to tread water as social networking truly took off.

Departure of the Year

Jason Calacanis’ departure from AOL caused quite a stir. Also surprising were Sam Sethi and Mike Butcher’s messy exits from the fallen Techcrunch UK last week. And then there was Ross ‘MySpace’ Levinsohn, although it seems that he engineered his own exit from Team Murdoch and should resurface soon…

Website of the year

Guardian Unlimited continued to show other newspapers what to do with this thing called the web, even if it still continues to dodge user comments on homepage stories, and despite its backwards approach to advertising (pop-ups aplenty). We also have a lot of time for vertical search engines with pretty user interfaces, especially Nestoria and Trulia. BBC and Flickr keep on improving too. 

Most hyped web thingy of the year
Undoubtedly Linden Lab’s Second Life – although its moves towards open source and social networking next year should see its rapid user growth continue. Naturally we plan to leap onto the SL bandwagon and will be soon releasing a How-To Guide for all you brand marketers. And then we’ll open a SL office (actually no, we’re not doing that…). 

Web App of the year

The glorious Last.fm was one of a raft of UK-based Web 2.0 apps to really flower in 2006, and is in constant usage here in E-consultancy Towers. Others? Well OpenStreetMap stuck it to restrictive data owners – good work we say. And Eyespot is another fantastic new web app worth a hefty pat on the back.

Mobile App of the year
3’s See Me TV had a great year – generating millions of downloads and hundreds of thousands of pounds for its contributors.

Breakthrough of the year
Online ad exchange, Spotrunner attracted ‘big bucks’ investment from WPP and other media giants to help them combat Google. Not that there’s any stopping Google, but competition is a good thing.

SEO disaster of the year

ebookers’ had a bit of a mare with its Google search rankings, although it now appears to be solved… who won that consulting job we wonder?

Worst usability

Any site wantonly using Flash to show off, plus the wise folks at Index Ventures and numerous other sites for back button disabling. Stoppit, ye wise folks!

Viral of the year
Threshers accidentally proved the power of viral marketing through a runaway voucher campaign – or was it deliberate?