The Web has been part of the public consciousness for roughly 20 years now. But it was only in the last decade that we saw the Internet start to realize its full potential. Services offering music, social networking, online storage, collaborative document editing, and all else sprung up by the thousands. Of course, this period of experimentation, exploration, and growth was bound to leave a few casualties in its wake. Crowded markets, lack of funding, and bad business models forced many sites to implode, sometimes in spectacular fashion. Below we examine 15 of the biggest and best Web failures of the last decade.
A "playable search engine," SeeqPod scoured the Internet for media files, including music and videos, and let you play them straight from your browser. You could even create playlists and share what you found with others. SeeqPod was loved by many -- but was loathed by the record industry due to its inability to filter out copyrighted material. The industry promptly sued SeeqPod into oblivion
. After filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in April, it started licensing its search technology to other companies.
April 1, 2009
AllPeers was touted as the next killer app for Firefox, which is as much a platform for development as it is a browser. AllPeers was a plug-in that let you create a private network with friends and share files with them via BitTorrent. This RIAA-proof file-sharing network generated plenty of buzz and backing from investors, but sadly, not enough interest from potential users. The service was shut down within a year of its launch because growth was not meeting expectations.
March 3, 2008
This online Post-It style app had a lot going for it; it was clean, fast, and simple to use. It automatically recognized dates and tasks, and added them to your Stikkit calendar or to-do list. That made it a favorite among productivity nerds at sites like Web Worker Daily
. Unlike other sites on this list, Stikkit didn't run out of funding or get snatched up by a corporation that forced its doors shut. Instead, lead programmer Rael Dornfest of Values of n (the company behind Stikkit), took a job with Twitter, and decided -- of his own accord -- to simply shut down the service, leaving behind a frustrated user base.
December 8, 2008
This one-time competitor to social bookmarking service Del.icio.us
put a heavy focus on the "social" part of the equation. It had a unique group bookmarking tool that let several users share a single set of bookmarks. Sadly, on January 30th, 2009, its servers suffered an outage that led to the severe corruption and loss of almost all user data, essentially putting an end to the service. The site is currently in the early stages of relaunching, simply as "Gnolia
," but we bet it'll be a while before users trust their data to it.
January 30, 2009
Streamload, Omnidrive, Yahoo Briefcase, Xdrive, and countless others:
Storing your data in the cloud is finally becoming acceptable, but in the pioneer Web-storage days of 2006 and 2007, there just weren't enough customers to go around. There are still a glut of options out there if you want to keep your data online, but services like Streamload, Omnidrive, Xdrive and countless others were pushed out of business by the likes of Dropbox
, which had far more advanced features, and Microsoft's SkyDrive
, which offers ten times the free storage of its competitors.
Google Notebook is one of many Google services that made a big splash on launch, but failed to attract a large user base, languishing in obscurity before finally being shut down. Notebook let users take simple text notes, clip sections of Web pages, and bookmark sites. The Google Docs-like collaborative note editing was a nice touch, but the poor integration with the rest of the Google eco-sphere left much to be desired. In January, development was unceremoniously halted -- though the service continues to function.
January 14, 2009
I Want Sandy:
Stikkit's younger, cooler sister, I Want Sandy
, took the same language tech behind the sticky-note app and built an automated secretary out of it. You CC'ed Sandy on e-mails, or sent them directly to her, and she'd save contact information, remind you of appointments, and even just act as a repository for bookmarks or notes. Of course, when Values of n closed of shop, I Want Sandy followed Stikkit into the ether. Nothing quite like it existed before or has since.
December 8, 2009
Kevin Rose, the man behind Digg, threw his hat in the social networking arena with Pownce. Originally available as an Adobe Air app, the service could easily have been described as a fancy Twitter. It was all about short, often public, messages and status updates. It didn't have a 140-character limit, though, and it supported links and images. It went into public beta in January of 2008, built a sizable buzz, and was the subject of drooling write-ups. There was only one problem: no one ever used it. By that December, it had closed up shop and the underlying technology was sold to SixApart, the company behind the Movable Type blogging platform.
December 15, 2008
Suck was the granddaddy of everything from high-brow editorial outlets like Crooked Timber to more whimsical clearinghouses like Boing Boing, and one of the first ad-supported Web-based outlets that would eventually get lumped under the heading "blog." In June of 2001, writer Joey Anuff and editor Carl Steadman decided to take a vacation from the site they'd been meticulously managing since its debut in 1995. The sign reading "Gone Fishing" is still the last entry.
June 8, 2001
Before there was Twitter
, there was Dodgeball. The early location-based social network presaged the now ubiquitous GPS-packing phone. As a participant, you would text your location to Dodgeball, which would then see if any of your friends had recently checked in nearby. It would then send those in the area a text to let them know where you were. Google bought the service in 2005, but founders Dennis Crowley and Alex Rainert found the environment frustrating and left to form their own company. In February of 2009, Dodgeball was shuttered for good and replaced by Google Latitude. Shortly after, Crowley and Rainert launched Foursquare -- a location-based social network and game.
One of the more ambitious and unique ventures of the original late-'90s dot-com boom, Kozmo promised to deliver everything from coffee to DVD rentals to your front door in under an hour -- free of charge. The business model received plenty of criticism, but that didn't stop Kozmo from raising hundreds of millions in venture capital, including $60 million from Amazon. At its height, the service was offered in 11 major U.S. cities, and staffed primarily by young bike messengers. Sadly, the money saved by not needing to rent retail space never translated into a profit, and in 2001, it closed up shop. To make matters worse, the company was the target of an MSNBC report that accused the company of refusing to serve primarily African American areas, directly leading to a lawsuit filed by the Equal Rights Center.
Founded in 2005 by veterans of Expedia and Microsoft, TripHub offered a way to organize group trips. The service relied heavily upon partnerships with companies such as Orbitz, which used the service to help customers organize excursions with friends and family. It was a novel idea, but one that sadly didn't really stand on its own. In 2008, due to a lack of funding, TripHub was shut down. Now in its place is a simple travel blog.
August 23, 2008
The brainchild of Jimmy Wales and the Wikia content hubs, Wikia Search aimed to leverage the hivemind to produce better search results than Google. The problem with wikis, though, is that they require a large user base to be effective. Users didn't flock to Wikia Search, so it's results never improved much. Thanks to the economic crunch, Wales simply decided that it wasn't worth keeping the search engine running, and in March of this year, sent it to the Web 2.0 graveyard.
March 14, 2009
A pioneering music download service that offered everything on its site for free, Spiral Frog was entirely supported by advertisements. Unfortunately, the convoluted licensing scheme prevented tracks from being burned to CD or played on non-Windows PCs, and forced users to re-download songs every 60 days. To make matters worse, even though you could load songs on as many as two portable players, iPods and Zunes were not supported. With a limited audience, advertising revenues failed to keep the site afloat. It borrowed $9 million in 2008 to keep functioning, but when the creditors came calling in '09, the company was forced to hand over all assets and shut down.
: March 19, 2009
Imeem was a godsend for music bloggers and others looking to hear a particular song. Users could register and upload tracks from their personal collection, or stream tracks from others. The ad-supported music and social networking service was the brainchild of several former Napster employees, and had plenty of support from the record labels. Unfortunately, it failed to ever turn a profit, and in June of '09, unexpectedly pulled all user-uploaded content. Then, just to rub salt in the wound, MySpace bought the service for a song and a dance, promptly closing its doors for good.
December 8, 2009
Joost was supposed to change streaming video. The desktop application, based on BitTorrent and Firefox, brought high-quality content to the desktop PC. Development dragged on, however, and before the service could get out of beta, Hulu launched and YouTube signed content deals with several major players. Joost was in the awkward position of going from pioneer to obsolete virtually overnight. It has since relaunched as a browser-based streaming service, but all the worthwhile content providers have already gone elsewhere.
The Lala of today, the Last.FM and iMeem competitor, in no way resembles the CD-swapping service that launched in 2006. Originally, the site connected fans who exchanged CDs for free, paying only a $0.99 shipping fee for each disc. By 2006, however, CDs were clearly on the way out and MP3s were the new black. At its peak, Lala claimed only 300,000 members exchanging only 500,000 CDs. So, in 2007, it was relaunched with a focus on digital streaming, and uploading mp3s from your personal collection.