The Internet is littered with stories of products that failed. Though Orkut might be making the headlines recently, it is neither the first nor will it be the last digital platform that failed to strike a chord with users. Let’s take a look at some other high profile digital initiatives that could not perform.
Steve Jobs might have had the Midas Touch in most things but there was one venture that did not go according to plan. Ping; a feature introduced within the massively popular iTunes was touted as the place to be for musicians and fans to connect with each other. However, it never did catch users’ fancy and as artists started flocking to Twitter and Facebook to start talking with their fans, Apple finally announced in 2013 that Ping was being shut down.
Though the reasons behind Ping’s failure are myriad, one important factor was lack of integration with other social networks. Though Ping was launched with the promise of Facebook integration, the feature wasn’t available to users as both companies failed to reach an agreement. Apple also put a lot of restrictions on what users could do on Ping. As companies like Facebook became better platforms for people to discover and share new music, Ping’s viability started dropping. Combined with lack of basic features like posting updates and the absence of big artists, Ping was deigned to be a good idea that was never properly executed and another one of Apple’s web services that failed to take off.
The grand old man of web services, MySpace was among the first social networking platforms to become popular though its decline was as sharp as its rise. In the early 2000’s MySpace (or Myspace) was the most visited website in the US (even ahead of Google in some years). Its gaming platform saw the rise of companies like Zynga and the idea of having a social network around music was a key trendsetter. In fact, though its popularity as a social network might have declined, music is still the reason why MySpace still survives where other digital platforms have closed down.
So, what were the reasons behind MySpace’s failure? One major reason that has been speculated is too much advertising. At a time when websites like Facebook were working towards a cleaner and less cluttered interface, MySpace filled up its pages with ads. Apart from the obvious performance issues, it intruded on the user experience. Apart from this, it never got its social networking strategy right and tried to do everything in-house instead of creating a platform for third party developers.
Buzz was started by Yahoo in 2008 as a news aggregating platform. Taking a cue from Digg, users could “vote” for or against stories that they read online. The idea was to try and divert traffic from Google, however, it never did pick off and was finally killed by Yahoo in 2008.
Wave was another name in a long list of failures that constitutes Google’s torturous social media journey. However, it also remains one of the more interesting ideas in the list. Launched in 2009, Wave was designed as a combination of live messaging, email and Twitter. It allowed users to drag and drop files from the desktop directly into the conversation along with a number of other nifty features. And it was perhaps this versatility that proved its eventual downfall for wave proved to be too complicated for the causal user. Neither did it do any of the above mentioned things particularly well individually, so users did not have a reason to favour Wave instead of, say, Wiki or email. Despite a few passionate users, it never did achieve the sort of numbers that would allow it to compete with the likes of Facebook or Twitter and was finally shut down by Google in 2012.
Like its namesake from Yahoo, Google Buzz was another social tool that had to be consigned to the garbage bin. Buzz, which was a “social communications” tool was launched in 2010 as a competition to Twitter. However, nearly as soon as it launched it had to face a hailstorm of criticism over the lack of privacy. Though Google tried to improve the privacy settings, the criticisms continued and eventually the service was discontinued in 2011.
The lesson here is simple: Users value their privacy and Google, by trying to use the massive store of data it has, to gain a competitive advantage, created a situation where people started questioning whether they could trust a company with their private information.
The idea behind Music was simple, use tweets to discover which artists and music people are talking about and provide recommendations based on it. The problem was that it was just another tool in an already crowded music recommendation app space. The fact that Music did not allow users to play the songs (as services like Pandora, Spotify, Last.fm, etc., do) did not do it any favours. It was a middle man in a space that did not need one. Surprisingly, Twitter did very little to even promote the product, causing many to not even know of its existence. Launched for the iPhone, the Music app was finally discontinued by the company earlier this year.
Digg was a massively popular content aggregator. Specifically designed for people who consumed content online, Digg allowed users to vote for or against news pieces and other web content, the more popular or more voted for news pieces getting placed higher in the feed. By 2008, Digg's homepage was said to be attracting over 236 million visitors annually. There were reports of a $200 million deal with Google on the cards though it never materialized. However, Digg’s star started fading over time. Users were very unhappy over latter updates to the service and started moving on to other platforms. In 2012, Digg was chopped off into three different parts and sold off for an overall value of just under $15 million.