Yes nmat is right, it was the first time that bitcoin got into the public view.
It was like a virus, the more people knew about bitcoin the more people were talking about it and thus, even more people knew about it!
A huge bubble like that won't come next time. Instead, bitcoin will climb slowly, but it will. There will be heights and depths, of course.
I believe it was a bubble that got extremely blown up by a collective bunch of "manipulators" to cashout on the increase frenzy of interest in bitcoins. The extreme crash however is more likely a result of all the scams that came about and exchange hacks etc.