For every Ford Mustang, a car that has stood the test of time and proven itself as a trusted, successful vehicle, there is a Ford Edsel, an utter flop that, if remembered at all, only enters the mind as a failure worthy of bemusement or outright derision. The same can be said of almost every product category, of course. Remember Crystal Clear Pepsi or New Coke? Remember the Arch Deluxe from McDonalds? Yes, many failures line the pathways of history. And these flops are hardly limited to the physical product space; for every Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, there are a plethora of social media platforms that failed and died.
The funny thing about a failed social media platform or app is that unlike a tangible product that has production halted and gets pulled off shelves, defunct social networks or sites leave their mark on the web even after their active “lives” have ended. So even if you never once used Orkut (it was big in Brazil) or caught the wave with Surfbook (the Dutch OG) you can still find plenty of information about these failed social networks online. The problem, of course, is that almost no one found them before they failed. Oh well, we can’t all have a billion users and counting.
15. Ping – Social Music
Ping was like a hybrid between iTunes and a social network, except unlike iTunes no one liked it. The platform was launched by Apple in 2010 and was intended to link people together thanks to common interests in tunes, and it was accessible via the iPhone and iPod Touch. It allowed for the upload and viewing of short video clips. Within days of its launch, the platform was swamped with spam and fake accounts, and within almost exactly two years Ping was shut down and finished. Don’t worry, somehow Apple Inc. managed to survive and in fact remains in business to this day.
14. The Hub – For Kids by Major Corporation
The Hub was a misguided mess that tried to blend shopping, culture, and social networking with kids as the intended customer base. I say customer, not user, as indeed this venture was created primarily with sales in mind. The parent company behind The Hub is none other than unfair labor practices giant Walmart. And speaking of parents, while kids and teens were to be the primary user of The Hub, the system was designed to inform parents of all their kids’ activities on the site, thereby removing the freedom and privacy required for a social site to function as it should. The Hub was shuttered back in 2006.
13. Surfbook – The OG Like?
Unless you are a Dutch person over the age of 30 and/or an internet historian, you have probably never heard of the social networking site Surfbook. This short-lived, little known platform surfaced right around the turn of the millennium, but it would never really catch a wave of success. Its claim to fame is that Surfbook might have featured the world’s first version of a “Like” button, such as the now ubiquitous button from Facebook. (However, a lawsuit settled in 2014 between Surfbook patent holders and Facebook’s legal team found no infringement by Facebook’s Like button, so there goes that.)
12. Yahoo! Buzz – Minus the Buzz
You will notice a trend: when companies with a long history of successful search engines, email platforms, and other tried-and-true online assets tries to launch a social media enterprise, it usually fails. Yahoo’s twist on the social network was to create a platform focused primarily on sharing and even generating news stories: users could link to or write their own articles and then share them with their online cohort. Heavy editorial moderation, system glitches, and a general lack of interest caused the site to fold back in 2011. Perhaps Yahoo! Buzz would have done better in today’s world that’s rife with total BS passing for journalism and news, eh?
11. ConnectU – Almost Facebook But Then Not
If you saw the movie The Social Network or read tech-related news articles in the middle years of the last decade, you probably already know the story of this social network: it was almost the next big thing. ConnectU was the brain child of Divya Narendra and brothers Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss. It was to be a school-centric social network linking students together to help peers keep up on personal news, to plan social events, and so forth. Instead, it was almost surely what inspired Mark Zuckerberg to create Facebook, arguably by stealing the ideas and breaching the trust of ConnectU’s creators. Either way, the site never took off, but the whole mess did leave the ConnectU founders rich thanks to lawsuits.
10. Friendster – The Original Flop?
For a while there, back in the Wild West Days of social media, Friendster was a force to be reckoned with. It was one of the first platforms that allowed people to share videos, pictures, comments, and to chat. But despite its early successes and growth following its launch in 2002, the site never really adapted to the wants and needs of its users; it focused more on the media uploaded and shared on profiles than on the connections between people. In 2011, the site rebranded itself and launched as a video game-oriented platform, but in the summer of 2015, it went dark for good.
9. Orkut – What’s In a Name?
For starters, when you name your social networking site Orkut, you are already setting the stage for an uphill fight, people. The people in question here are none other than the minds at Google, surprisingly. Orkut was launched in 2004 and was dedicated to helping friends maintain and/or establish connections; it was truly about socializing and connecting, not just about sharing cat photos and videos of people falling over. The goal was noble enough, really, but the mechanics were off. For example, anyone could link to anyone, there wasn’t double consent needed for a profile to be viewed and for the exchange of messages and content, rather you had to proactively place someone on an “Ignore” list to keep them apart from you. Not ideal in creepy internet land.
8. Google+ – Still Around. Still Not Popular
Google+ is not technically a “failed” social network only because it is not technically defunct. In fact, chances are good that you yourself technically have a Google+ profile, so long as you use a Gmail email address and/or Gchat or some of the other Google products. But almost no one actively uses this rather clunky, uninspired interface for sharing messages, swapping images, or, you know, for being social. Mostly this fourth major social network attempt by Google just brings up profile headshots when you search for someone on Google Images. (And you thought that was the sole domain of LinkdIn, right?)
7. Xanga – Early To Rise, Early To Fall
Remember how Facebook pretty much crushed MySpace? Well, for some perspective here, MySpace pretty much crushed Xanga. So yes, we’re taking things pretty far back, at least in terms of interweb history. Xanga hit the internet in 1999 as a site dedicated to sharing music, book, and other media reviews. Which is cool and all, but it quickly became clear that any social media site can offer that type of service, thus one solely dedicated to it is unlikely to survive. It follows that, despite regular reorganization, Xanga as a social platform sputtered and died. It lives on as a hosting service, however.
6. Ello – And… Soon Goodbye?
The concept behind Ello was great: a basic, easy-to-navigate social media site without all the ads and articles forced into your feed that often make Facebook and Twitter and such annoying. It does not require you to use your real name and makes it easy to keep your profile, messages, and media sharing private. So why has this platform, which launched in 2014, failed to catch on? Because for all the stuff it doesn’t foist upon its users, like annoying ads and forced public exposure, it doesn’t offer anything all that new or interesting, either. And not doing something isn’t the same as doing something well.
5. Eons – Social Networking for the Gray Beards
Eons.com had a laudable goal: the site was launched with the intention of becoming the preferred social media and networking platform for baby boomers in particular, though it was intended generally for people over the age of forty, forty being old age in the internet world. The founders of the platform, which included Jeff Taylor of Monster.com fame and fortune, forgot one thing, though: older people usually fall into two categories: either they don’t much care for social media regardless of platform positioning, or they are going to opt for the best sites and services available, their advanced age notwithstanding.
4. Digg – It Was Briefly Bigg
Digg was another social media/network platform that had a rather focused agenda: it was designed to help facilitate the easy sharing of news, opinion pieces, and other media. Or, in other words, it was yet another aggregator. But this early entrant into what would become a crowded field (and later a field dominated by Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter, essentially) saw ascendance in the years 2004 through its peak in 2008 or 2009. Many sites added Digg buttons to their webpages, and the platform was, for a time, large enough to be an influencer in the online community. Then the reigning heavy hitters surpassed it, though Digg does still exist, albeit in altered and stripped down form.
3. Pownce – Lost Its Bounce
When someone says: “Think of a micro-blogging site,” you probably immediately think of Twitter (assuming you’re familiar with the term “micro-blogging” at all, that is) and likely can’t think of any others. For a little while, though, in 2007 and 2008, to be specific, Pownce was on the scene.
The site was built around short messages in post form and file and media swapping among friends. It met with plenty of buzz after its June 2007 launch, and was acquired just 18 months later in late 2008. That acquisition proved pretty pointless, though, as Pownce dried up and was shut down in a matter of weeks.
2. Vitalskate – The Failed Skate Life Site
If there’s one thing hardcore skateboarders love, it’s a product designed by outsiders intended to resonate with their culture. Vitalskate was a social media and network platform intended to serve as an online community for the skater culture. It was (briefly) a hub for sharing photos and videos, for chat and messaging forums, and where people with similar interests could connect and form or strengthen bonds. The site actually did get a bit of traction, but never nailed the landing, as it were, and was soon bought out. Now it redirects you to VitalBMX.com, much to the chagrin of a handful of skaters.
1. MySpace – The Harder They Fall
MySpace is the poster child of failed social network platforms, and frankly that’s a bit unfair. (Yes, I’m aware of the contradiction at work here.) It’s unfair because MySpace never fully failed and went away, the platform simply failed to adapt enough to remain ascendant or even relevant. The failure of MySpace to fend off the rise of Facebook and others is only so notable because, as the one-time reigning champion of social sites, the team at MySpace had the capital and should have had the wherewithal to adapt and develop, instead of growing obsolete thanks to a cluttered, unwieldy interface and a lack of mission.
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