It's time again to gaze into my crystal ball and make some predictions for 2012.
Chrome Becomes Top Browser
Having already surpassed Firefox this year, Chrome will see accelerated adoption, surpassing Internet Explorer as the top desktop browser in the closing weeks of 2012.
DuckDuckGo Cracks Mainstream
Google Implements AuthorRank
Google spent 2011 building an identity platform, launching and aggressively promoting authorship while building an internal influence metric. In 2012 they'll put this all together and use AuthorRank (referred to in patents as Agent Rank) as a search signal. It will have a more profound impact on search than all Panda updates combined.
Image Search Gets Serious
Pinterest. Instagram. mlkshk. We Heart It. Flickr. Meme Generator. The Internet runs on images. Look for a new image search engine, as well as image search analytics. Hopefully this will cause Google to improve (which is a kind word) image search tracking within Google Analytics.
SEO Tool Funding
VCs have been sniffing around SEO tool providers for a number of years. In 2012 one of the major SEO tool providers (SEOmoz or Raven) will receive a serious round of funding. I actually think this is a terrible idea but ... there it is.
For location based services to really take off and reach the mainstream they'll need a near frictionless check-in process. Throughout 2012 you'll see Facebook, Foursquare and Google one-up each other in providing better ways to check-in. These will start with prompts and evolve into check-out (see Google Wallet) integrations.
As much as I like Google+ I think it will plateau in mid-2012 and remain a solid second fiddle to Facebook. That's not a knock of Google+ or the value it brings to both users and Google. There are simply too many choices and no compelling case for mass migration.
HTML5 (Finally) Becomes Important
After a few years of hype HTML5 becomes important, delivering rich experiences that users will come to expect. As both site adoption and browser compatibility rise, search engines will begin to use new HTML5 tags to better understand and analyze pages.
Structured mark-up will continue to be important but Schema.org adoption will stall. Instead, Google will continue to be an omnivore, happy to digest any type of structured mark-up, while other entities like Facebook will continue to promote their own proprietary mark-up.
Mobile Search Skyrockets
Only 40% of U.S. mobile users have smartphones. That's going to change in a big way in 2012 as both Apple and Google fight to secure these mobile users. Mobile search will be the place for growth as desktop search growth falls to single digits.
Yahoo! Buys Tumblr
Doubling down on content Yahoo! will buy Tumblr, hoping to extend their contributor network and overlay a sophisticated, targeted display advertising network. In doing so, they'll quickly shutter all porn related Tumblr blogs.
Google Acquires Topsy
Topsy, the last real-time search engine, is acquired by Google who quickly shuts down the Topsy API and applies the talent to their own initiatives on both desktop and mobile platforms.