Less than a decade ago, analysts and journalists spent time wondering whether the Internet would continue to be free. Not any more. The top Internet and e-business trend of 2004, according to eMarketer, is that paid search advertising grew 51% in the United States last year to become a $3.9 billion market.
Among the other top ten trends of the last year, cross-channel shopping has become increasingly favored by consumers. Many consumers use online store information to research purchases that they actually prefer to make in stores, while others divide their time and cash more equally among catalog, Web, and brick-and-mortar channels.
In the general area of online content development, corporate blogs and Really Simple Syndication made significant strides last year, while the ability of the online audience to access that content has grown rapidly with lower prices (less than $30 per month) for broadband services and increasingly sophisticated wireless technology.
Among IT developments last year was a ten-year plan for health care providers to share patient medical records. And IT continues to be the function most commonly outsourced abroad. Voice over IP services are available but not yet commonly used, and the Linux Standards Base was accepted in the last year by several technology companies.
Last on the list of important online business developments in 2004 is the simple word “China,” as China and India continue their race for the largest IT spending title, with last year’s total now estimated to be $25 billion in China alone.