It was only a few years back when the average person wouldn't think about touching a computer or “logging in” to anything if it wasn't specifically stated in their job description. This all changed with the advent of Facebook; now, the casual computer denizen can access information about his friends (or strangers who don't know how privacy settings work) with a couple of keystrokes.

Facebook and the general population share a love-hate relationship similar to that of a wealthy but nosey father and his ungrateful children. “Yes son, you can have the yacht for the weekend, just send me a text every once in a while to let me know you're okay,” to which the son yells back, “Fuck you dad, you never give me any privacy!”

We've been given access to so much knowledge that we forget how things worked before. Although Facebook was conceived in 2004, I believe that 2010, specifically April of 2010, will be regarded in history as the specific moment that “Big Blue” went from being a simple social networking site to the glue that holds the internet together. What happened in April that was so cataclysmic it changed the way we interact online?

Seeing exactly what your friends think makes this  the closest thing we have to a transparent democracy. And Flirting? That's a thing of the past!The “like” button was introduced.

Never before has there been a more universally accepted way to share your views. The “like” button gave a voice to a shockingly large population of people who either lacked the technical experience required to share an entertaining piece of online material or didn't have the time (or friends) required to spread the information the traditional word-of-mouth way.

Gone are the days when you would have to voice an opinion about a particular issue for your friends to know how you feel about it! Now you can simply “like” someone else's opinion and have it neatly appear on your wall.

The “like” button also has the power to settle complex problems, assuming those problems can be summarized in a status update. Hair color changes, fashion decisions, and baby names can all be “liked,” tallied up, and then used to make a decision. Seeing exactly what your friends think makes this system the closest thing we have to a transparent democracy. And flirting? That's a thing of the past! The zeitgeist of the courting process involves, if not demands, that both parties actively “like” every inane thing their mate does online. Because there's nothing sexier than seeing your significant other's name plastered on every story picture or update you publish.

While the social implications of the “like” button may make it a candidate for “invention of 2010,” the effects it's had on business place it on the shortlist (if not on top of it). Never before has the general public volunteered so much private information for the sake of instant gratification. Each “like” a piece of content receives paints a clearer picture of the publishers target demographic. If five years ago a college comedy site could say with relative accuracy that college-aged kids read the articles, now they can get as specific as, “Yaro's columns are better received by 21-year-old males whose religious views are listed as Dragon Ball Z.”

The “like” effect also acts as peer pressure 2.0, advertising exactly how many of your friends enjoy a certain product or service. If six of your friends like Fruity Energy Drink or Misanthropic White Rapper, why don't you? The perceived cost is non-existent, but as with most modern web services, if it's free then the cost is your information.

2010 was a year full of oil spills, viruses, and earthquakes, which may keep it from being dubbed a “good” year, but just remember that it also brought a new way to interact with everything you see online. Think of the online world as a concert where the crowd is shrouded in darkness but the stage is lit up. The “like” button gives you a chance to applaud, but it also shines a little bit of the spotlight on you, and this dimension of interaction is exactly what makes it my favorite invention of 2010.