Now that the year is nearing a close, it's an appropriate time to reflect on the prodigious growth of digital culture in 2012.
[More from Mashable: The 10 Worst Memes of 2012]
Social media is more popular than ever. Facebook has more than one billion users. The number of active smartphones also eclipsed one billion in 2012. The Internet is becoming so essential to our lives, we want to take it with us wherever we go.
Even though the web constantly moves forward at a blistering pace, at Mashable we've been doing our best to keep you up to speed. What you may or may not have noticed as our flurry of posts sailed through your Twitter feed is that, in addition to writing quick hitting news stories, our editorial staff regularly posts in-depth, feature-length articles on a multitude of topics, all relating back to digital and tech culture.
[More from Mashable: 6 Apps and Tools to Ease Your Thanksgiving Travel]
Here is a list of 40 of our most memorable stories from the past year. We hope you enjoy reading them as much as we did writing them.
Making the Internet a more user-friendly place is our bread and butter. Here are a few stories that will surely help improve your online experience.
- How to Find Anything in Your Gmail Check out these 10 tips for advanced Gmail search functions that'll make hounding old emails a breeze.
- Secret Sauce: What Does It Take to Create a Viral Video? Mashable asked viral video agency Seedwell what today's web audience is looking for, and how to recognize a viral sensation before it happens.
- How to Fine Tune Your Facebook News Feed Like a Boss Do Facebook's algorithms drive you nuts? Kick your news feed into shape with our handy how-to.
- 8 Job Search Tips From the Co-Founder of LinkedIn Reid Hoffman's new book "The Start-up of You" offers plenty of insights into navigating today's tough job market. We've distilled eight of his key tips.
- 7 Photo Editing Apps to Use With Instagram These tools will help make some necessary adjustments to your photos before you start adding effects to enhance them.
- Find Scholarships for College, Student Loans With These Websites You've worked hard to make it into college, and now comes another challenge -- finding funding.
- 10 Free iPhone Apps You'll Use Every Day We've compiled a list of free, everyday iPhone apps, whether to help you wake up in the morning, access the news or manage your to-do list.
- What to Do if Your Cellphone or Laptop Gets Lost or Stolen Losing your cellphone can be as bad, or worse, than losing your wallet.
2012's Major Strides in Digital
While the previous batch of stories were about how to utilize the Internet, these features are about how the Internet has come of age in 2012. You'll find stories about technology, social media and digital business.
- The End of Facebook: What Will It Take to Kill the King of Social? Facebook is arguably the only mainstream thing on the web today. But is it built to last?
- Ecommerce in China: How the World's Biggest Market Buys Online A look at the state of China's online retail market.
- Free Rides: The Story of the Smartphone Subway Hackers Mobile security researchers discovered that some subway tickets can be hacked with an NFC-enabled phone to get free rides.
- Why the Future of Social Is in the Palm of Your Hand Cutting-edge app developers discuss the future of mobile-first social networks.
- Why Are Mobile Ads So Cheap? Mobile may be the future, but right now, mobile ad units still command a lower price point on average than print and web advertisements. Here's why.
- Meme Management: Meet the Man Who Reps Internet Stars So your video went viral. Now what? Ben Lashes has built a career on helping meme creators protect their intellectual property and cash in.
- Why Burberry Wants to Bring the Online Experience to Stores, and Not Vice Versa Christopher Bailey, chief creative officer of Burberry, talks integrating digital in-store, customization, live streaming and more.
- Twitter's API Update Cuts Off Oxygen to Third-Party Clients Twitter unveiled some of the upcoming changes to version 1.1 of its API that could have a drastic impact on the service's third-party ecosystem.
- New Twitter API Drops Support for RSS, Puts Limits on Third-Party Clients Twitter officially unveiled version 1.1 of its API, deprecating support of longstanding features such as RSS in the process.
The digital sphere is constantly redefining how entertainers connect and interact with fans. Here are a few stories about how pop singers, indie artists, NBA stars, TV personalities, comedians and slam dunk specialists are leveraging the Internet both to further their personal brands and to have a good time.
- Country Star Kenny Chesney Focuses on Online Viewers During Live Concert Kenny Chesney ensured his recent livestreamed concert was just as entertaining for online viewers as it was for the sweaty live crowd.
- The Incredible Story of a 5-Foot-5 Dunking Sensation [VIDEO] Tiny Porter Maberry's dunks will blow your mind. This is his amazing journey from a warehouse job to viral YouTube fame to a LeBron James ad and beyond.
- Bitchin' Kitchen: How a Web Chef Cooked Up a Hit TV Show Nadia G of "Bitchin' Kitchen" successfully turned her web series into a show on one of the most popular networks in the U.S. Learn how she did it.
- How the Flaming Lips Helped the O Music Awards Score an Offline Win The Flaming Lips hit the road with the O Music Awards. We look back at the marathon event and where it succeeded and failed.
- 'Nekci Menij Show' Parodies Pop Stars With Crude Animations "The Nekci Menij Show," a parody of pop music, began in Microsoft Paint and depicts today's biggest pop stars as crudely drawn ducks and blobs.
- How NBA Star Roy Hibbert Wins the Internet The seven-foot two-inch NBA (and Internet) All Star talks Twitter, "Gangnam Style" and Sega in this revealing Q&A.
- The Future of Funny: How Old and New Media Collaborate on Comedy How old and new media work together in pursuit of comedy.
A ton of political news broke in 2012, from a contentious U.S. presidential election to continuing uprisings in the Middle East. As you might expect, our political coverage focused on the digital angle. With excerpts from our Politics Transformed series, here are some political stories worth another look.
- Election 2040: The First President for Digital Natives By 2040, presidential candidates will have grown up with social media. What will the political landscape look like with Millennials in charge?
- How Close Are We to Internet Voting? Online voting is already here, but will we ever be able to elect a president via the Internet?
- Google Maps: Tree Density Tells the Story of Income Inequality It isn't always easy to spot income inequality. But it turns out, Google Maps places the measuring stick within reach.
- This Man Fights and Films the Last Gasps of the Arab Spring Activist filmmaker Matthew VanDyke fights alongside rebels in Libya and Syria while producing powerful war footage.
- Romney Gaffe Could Pay Off for Chinese Owner of Amercia.com Could Mitt Romney's Amercia gaffe help send a young Chinese boy to an American university? That's what the owner of Amercia.com hopes.
- Tweeting a War: How One Journalist Is Using Twitter in Afghanistan Mustafa Kazemi, an Afghanistan-born war reporter, is using Twitter to cover political strife and warfare in his home country.
Even though the point of the Internet is usually to interact with others remotely, it is good to keep in mind that there are still human beings involved in this equation. Here are a handful of stories, both inspiring and tragic, about how online interactions can profoundly affect people's "real" lives.
- Bullied Teen Uploads Chilling Video Before Being Found Dead Amanda Todd posted a video that detailed her brushes with online and offline bullying. She was later found dead as a result of suicide.
- Viral Philanthropy: The Impact of Crowdsourced Compassion Online crowdfunding for worthy causes has complemented traditional forms of fundraising, and may even replace them in the future.
- Reddit Users Surprise Terminally Ill Man With Random Acts of Kindness While one man and his family struggled with his terminal liver disease, Reddit users provided them with upbeat cards, letters, music and other acts of kindness.
- How Google Earth Is Preserving, Sharing Indigenous Culture The Surui tribe, native to Brazil's Rondonia state, released a detailed cultural map of their ancestral lands, embedded into Google Earth.
- Internet Strikes Back After Bus Monitor Harassed After a video went viral of a group of 12-15-year-old children verbally abusing a 69-year-old bus monitor, people reach out to help.
Every so often, something will inspire one of our top editors or brilliant guest writers (such as Sally Ride) to create a strongly-worded opinion piece. Here are a few of our most memorable op-ed stories from 2012.
- Triumph of the Nerds: Nate Silver Wins in 50 States Here is the absolute, undoubted winner of this election: Nate Silver and his running mate, big data.
- Why SOPA Is Dangerous One writer discusses why we need to understand and oppose SOPA -- immediately.
- Facebook Is Rigged: Why Personal Promoted Posts Are Bad for Users Facebook's personal promoted posts feature is an unsound revenue stream that will hurt user experience. Here's why.
- Twitter Verification Validates My Obsession Twitter doled out a bunch of verifications, and our editor in chief Lance Ulanoff got one of them. Here's how it went down.
- Great Science Education Starts With Inspired Teachers Sally Ride talks about the role empowered teachers can play in science, technology, engineering and math.
BONUS: The 10 Most Viral YouTube Videos of 2012
1. KONY 2012
Invisible Children, a movement seeking to end the conflict in Uganda, created the film Kony 2012. They hoped it would accelerate the arrest of Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) leader Joseph Kony, who has been kidnapping and abducting Uganda’s youth for nearly three decades. With more than 100 million views in six days, Kony 2012 became the most viral video in history. The movement, however, ended quite strangely. The video's creator, Jason Russell, was detained in the Pacific Beach neighborhood, with charges of public drunkenness and lewd behavior.
This story originally published on Mashable here.