When Covid-19 forced most of us to shelter in place in March, we turned to the digital world to stay remotely connected to our co-workers, family and friends. Slack and Zoom quickly replaced in-person meetings, while TikTok and the Nintendo Switch provided a much-needed escape from the grim headlines. This year’s Digital Hot List spotlights all the platforms and innovators that made life a little more bearable during the pandemic—and changed our lives forever.
Digital Executive of the Year
Jack Dorsey, Twitter
Whether Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey intended to or not, he and his company set new standards this year for how social media platforms moderate hate speech and misinformation. … Click here for Dorsey’s full Digital Executive of the Year profile.
Digital Creator of the Year
Sarah Cooper, TikTok/Twitter
It wasn’t even a year ago that Sarah Cooper seriously thought about once again setting aside her dream of making it big as a comedian and heading back into corporate America for a steady gig. Then the former UX designer at Google downloaded TikTok at the height of the pandemic and hit record. … Click here for Cooper’s full Digital Creator of the Year profile.
Hottest Digital Obsession
After the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody in May, calls for racial justice rang out across social media, and crowds gathered in protest despite the pandemic. The push for racial justice made its way to the world of media and advertising, too. Condé Nast came under fire after employees of color shined a light on the company’s noninclusive practices, major brands pulled ad spend from Facebook in response to the platform’s lackluster stance against hate speech, NBA players went on strike during the playoffs to demand progress and action, and a Black-owned nonprofit pressured ad agencies into sharing their diversity in hiring data. —Andrew Blustein
Even before the coronavirus, Slack had already established itself as a valuable workplace communications tool—the Covid-19 shutdown entrenched it even more as businesses adjusted to working remotely. Slack’s second-quarter revenue was up 49% year over year, with large enterprise customers (those spending more than $1 million per year) up 78%. The app said its users are connected for an average of 10 hours per day and actively use it for more than 100 minutes daily. Plus, Slack Connect, which lets people partner with collaborators in up to 20 organizations outside of their company, saw a 160% year-over-year jump in paid customers. —David Cohen
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
People may not have been able to see each other in real life due to Covid-19, but thanks to the Nintendo game, they could visit one another’s virtual villages remotely. Between June and August, Nintendo’s newest iteration of the popular Animal Crossing franchise was its most popular game, with 10.6 million copies sold, bringing total sales to 22.4 million. It was also the most-tweeted-about game in the first half of 2020, drawing brands like Gillette and Ikea. Even Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden added yard signs to the game to help get out the vote. Soon enough, we’ll be buying things in bells. —A.B.
Since its rebirth following ByteDance’s acquisition of Musical.ly in 2017, TikTok has been nothing short of a cultural tour de force. Turn on pop radio—it sounds like TikTok. Grab a coffee from Dunkin’—you’ll see menu items from a TikTok influencer. Claiming 100 million monthly active users in the U.S., TikTok is less akin to Facebook and more like YouTube, less of a social network and more like a supercharged user-generated streaming platform. Meanwhile, the company navigated an unprecedented obstacle when the Trump administration attempted to ban the app over the summer. While it has proposed spinning off as a U.S. company with Oracle and Walmart becoming partial owners to satisfy those concerns, TikTok looks poised to survive. If so, the only question remaining is: How big can TikTok get? —Scott Nover