Reader’s Choice: iPhone, Google, Security & More

Most popular stories from 2008

If there was any doubt that 2008 was the year of the smartphone and the iPhone, a quick study of the year’s most-trafficked stories on just waves it away.

Not only did readers hunt for any and all news about the iPhone (with all the religious zeal Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) appears to inspire in its base) they came to Google/Android stories in droves this year. The arrival of the G1 by T-Mobile and HTC, built on the Google-backed Android platform, kept Google at the center of all the hottest topics in Web tech this year — especially mobile technology.

It could be that readers wanted to note which was hotter, the iPhone or this new upstart G1. As we noted in October, ahead of the arrival of the Android G1 in stores, reviewer David Pogue of The New York Times described the handset as “polished enough to give Windows Mobile an inferiority complex the size of Australia.”

Yet Pogue’s scorecard similarly illustrated that the G1 isn’t perfect. He gave it an A-minus for software, a B-minus for phone capabilities and a C for network capabilities.

Avi Greengart, mobile device research director at Current Analysis, called the G1 an iPhone “challenger” that “falls short in every area.”

Sarah Palin’s hack

But there were moments when it wasn’t all about gadgets or smartphones.

Along came Sarah Palin, the then-largely unknown Alaska governor thrust into the media glare when Sen. John McCain named her to the Republican presidential ticket. Palin became a huge sensation on the Web. When a hacker broke into her Yahoo e-mail account, readers came out in droves as we delved into some behind-the-scenes looks at how the hacker did it — and where he bragged about it on the Web, thereby creating a digital trail for investigators.

As Andy Patrizio of reported, the FBI would later search the apartment of a University of Tennessee student suspected in the hacking of the Republican vice presidential candidate’s e-mail. He was later charged in the case.

While that was going on, other hackers broke into the personal site of Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly — who had been carrying on for several days in anger over the Palin hacks — and posted information on his site’s subscribers to the WikiLeaks Web site. Readers poured over Andy Patrizio’s account of how much the suspects were bragging about their exploits on the Web.

Google: Seemingly omnipresent

And then there was Google. The search leader’s relentless pace blazed along in 2008 with the release of its Chrome browser in September.

[cob:Special_Report]And Chrome may not have been just another of Google’s high-profile experiments: Sean Michael Kerner noted in his coverage that it might even make money for the already cash-flush Google (NASDAQ: GOOG).

Also topping off the Google news of the year was Andy Patrizio’s exclusive story that uncovered possible evidence of what Google’s own operating system. Or, as longtime Silicon Valley watchers have put it: the long-rumored, software-as-a-service-oriented Google OS.

Cisco: A new Linux platform?

Google wasn’t the only one striking out into new territory this year. Readers interested in open source remained strong supporters of the site this year, but responded in droves to Cisco’s moves to turn its routers into Linux Application Servers.

Page 2: Social networking’s dangers, iPhone mania and (of course) Microsoft

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Malware comes to Facebook

Facebook retained its usual hot spot in the news all year. But once it mixed with security news, reader interest about the social networking darling glowed white hot.

When Facebookers realized they had unwittingly sent spam to their friends on the site, they started to pay attention to security issues in social networking and security.

As we noted, security researchers discovered that, similarly to previous worms in Facebook, a growing number of users had unknowingly begun downloading malware that sent out messages to their Facebook friends. Those messages urged them to click on videos uploaded to either Google’s (NASDAQ: GOOG) Picasa photo-sharing site or to a shared video in the Google Reader RSS feed aggregation site. But instead of videos, they received more malware.

That news, along with tips to avoid the Koobface virus on Facebook, became one of‘s most passed-around stories this year.

iPhone mania

Enterprises also wondered if Apple’s iPhone would eventually make it into the enterprise — then noted how quickly support had gravitated to the phone, albeit unofficially in many companies.

Small wonder that Apple would jump to a 17 percent share of the U.S. smartphone market in August, up from an 11 percent slice only two months before, according to NPD Group. (Did we mention it was the year of smartphone stories?)

Other major topics in the realm of hardware kept readers commenting and coming back. You were especially interested in AMD’s travails — and its successes, such as its Cinema 2.0 super fast chip.

The political Web

In addition to Apple’s 3G debut, which had fans salivating over its arrival this year, the political Web and coverage of candidates dominated with readers.

That interest spiked even further when security woes reared their ugly heads yet again. There was the big revelation that both the Obama and McCain presidential campaigns suffered network breaches, as well as the Pentagon, which was followed by new calls for President-elect Obama to elevate cybersecurity in the nation’s homeland defenses.

Mike Elgan, a contributing columnist, wrote a piece wondering what might happen if China’s attempts at censorship during the summer Olympics might succeed. Readers responded in like words when Elgan wrote that “China is employing an unprecedented level of state-of-the-art digital technology to suppress media freedom. For the sake of humanity, let’s hope Beijing’s Orwellian IT experiment fails.”

And then there was Microsoft

The world’s largest software company will always see a lot of interest, given how widespread its products are within the industry.

But could a little schadenfreude have been at work when one of our stories — covering a lawsuit over the troubled Vista operating system — became one of our readers’ favorites this year?

[cob:In_Focus]As Stuart Johnston reported for, Intel officials may have been pleased that Microsoft lowered standards for obtaining the company’s Windows Vista Capable logo program sticker, but the same couldn’t be said for HP’s execs.

According to previously unseen e-mails in the ongoing class-action lawsuit against Microsoft, executives at HP were hopping mad about Microsoft’s (NASDAQ: MSFT) decision to certify that computers running Intel’s 915 graphics chipset were capable of running Vista.

HP’s beef with Microsoft? “The chipset was not capable of supporting Windows Vista’s new device driver model,” Stuart wrote.

Readers showed they were just as interested in Vista’s upcoming successor, Windows 7, which got its coming out party in 2008 at two major Microsoft developer conferences. would later report, exclusively, that Windows would likely get its debut in June 2009.

Stay tuned in 2009 as that page-turner unfolds in court and tech’s next round of stories hit the transom.

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