This story is part of , a series on the memes, people, products, movies and so much more that have influenced the 2010s.
While they inspire a bit of nostalgia — and frequently skeuomorphism — yesteryear’s gadgets are the compost of technology, the old crap out of which new products grow. As part of the natural product cycle, it’s hard to describe them as really “gone.”
Sometimes they just feel dead because a company doesn’t update or even mention them for a while. The Apple surprised us with upgrades to all. On the other hand, the company’s router line and backup drive also were on a long death watch until . You just never know., , , and were on our endangered list for years before
Other times, new products absorb their predecessors. As they became ever more powerful over the past decade, Microsoft player and the camcorder. While we might mourn our old friends, we get over the loss pretty quickly.like the MP3 player by slowly, but inexorably subsuming the capabilities of single-purpose gadgets like the
A variation on that theme are technologies that fail as consumer products but become absorbed into commercial devices. Microsoft’s Kinect sensing camera and mic array in 2017, for instance, as Azure Kinect. I don’t really consider that “dead.”
There are a lot more categories that the phone currently endangers like GPS devices, point-and-shoot cameras and voice recorders (you may think they’re gone, but they’re not). And then there’s the analog headphone jack, which Apple iPhone 7‘s Lightning port (also, ). As it turned out, the was a killer.with the
Even so, the biggest surprise of my 10-year trudge through Google Search wasn’t what we’d lost, but what’s still plugging along each year on my endangered list.. . . . . They may be sharply diminished or struggling and assumed to be gone, but they’re not quite dead yet.
Isn’t it iconic?
There are some companies, products and technologies that simply reflect the tech zeitgeist of an era, regardless of their lifespan, actual impact or how we felt about them. They need little explanation.
- In 2011, the last typewriter factory shut down.
- AltaVista, the go-to search engine before Google‘s rise to hegemony, after passing through the hands of various other companies.
- Microsoft Office’s loathsome , but was .
- Gawker, a tech gossip blog that in many ways personified the early 21st century of an industry in flux, .
- The 140-character limit which defined Twitter since 2006 ( ).
- Klout, a system that exemplified the drive to commoditize social media popularity with an , .
- and managed to hang around until 2017, well past their expiration dates; , while .
- In 2019, we said goodbye to the .
- We’ll (finally) .
But some of the dead I feel compelled to eulogize. Or speak ill of.
Old companies never die, they just become patent portfolios
was one of the pioneers in when it launched in 2010, but arguably failed simply because it arrived before its time. Game libraries were too small, we hadn’t yet become inured to (or ) subscription pricing, there were a lot more problems with network bandwidth and stability (though for new platforms like and ), and gaming was primarily for the hardcore who prefer the better performance on a local system.
By 2012 it had hit too many financial bumps to remain independent or continue as originally envisioned, and in 2015,. As a service it wasn’t viable, but its technology patents were extremely valuable for Sony’s nascent platform, which at the time streamed games from the cloud to its consoles.
Sometimes companies remain but their souls die. In 2012, struggling Kodak sold or shut down every product that arguably made it Kodak — the film, sensor, camera, scanner, kiosk and inkjet printer businesses — culminating in the . (Fun fact: It sold its OLED business to LG in 2009.) The company’s still around today, and has been slowly bringing back its film, thanks to a small , but it’s nothing like what Kodak was when this century began.
Palm traveled a similar road. Technically, you could also argue the once-dominant pioneer in in handheld computing is stopped producing the hallmark Palm and WebOS devices in 2011 and licensed the WebOS source code and documentation, and sold the patents, to LG in 2013. That was followed by the transfer of the Palm trademark to TCL in 2014., but it’s nothing like it was in its heyday. After 18 years of success it had to in 2010, which
And occasionally, the first time you see a new product you just know it’s never going to be viable as a saleable item — but that it’s a great proof-of-concept of technologies that will eventually end up in other products, whether via the sale of the companies’ patents to a bigger entity or reverse engineering by another player. That’s how I felt when I saw Lytro’sin its in 2011; in 2018.
Some technologies die out no matter how good they are simply because they can’t keep up with changing market demands, like plasma TV. It was the mid-1990s through the mid-2010s; tolled the death knell. , as , plasma’s inability to scale resolution beyond HD held it back, along with the constraints imposed by the bulb-for-every-pixel backlight that allowed its deep blacks, a problem rising competitor OLED didn’t face.beginning in the
Long, drawn-out deaths
Some companies and products die so gradually that, by the time they turn off the electricity we thought they were already long gone.
Take VHS tapes and VCRs. A combination of digital video recording and streaming displaced them eons ago, but it wasn’t until as late as 2016 that— and Betamax, , .
One of the last relics of the early web — when we still prefaced it with “worldwide” — communitywas , but just three years later it faced the . In 2009, , but the last remnant of it . Ditto for Yahoo groups, which are .
Android and iOS, and it dropped from the public consciousness long before ., Microsoft’s 2010 attempt to create a single operating system across desktop and mobile devices, and which eventually morphed into , also had some diehard fans. But it was quickly squeezed out by
The army of Meanwhiles and Neverweres
Apple, with its much-hyped-but-Could’ve Been King of the decade. Google’s and are other rivals for the position, but while highly newsworthy, neither felt as eagerly anticipated by the tech world as the AirPower.wireless charging pad is my
“Never shipped” is a crown usually donned by crowdfunding campaigns, frequently part of take-the-money-and-run stories, such as Lily (the selfie drone), Ossic X/SonicVR (3D audio headphones), Goji Smart Lock and the (a connected backpack).
There’s also a special subset of insanely stupid product ideas that somehow get funded but either never ship or sputter out a couple miles above the launchpad, leaving the rest of us with our schadenfreude to keep us warm. The Wi-Fi wine bottle and Wi-Fi juicer are two recent standouts. (Unfortunately, there’s always a few that sneak through and make it to production, like . Because sticking a pacifier-like tongue in your mouth to groom a cat is just insane.)
An honorary member of this club is, a phone-ish attempt to appeal to a made-up demographic of “lifecasters” (young adults really into social networking). While the product line actually , it lasted less than three months before .
Killed by Google
Google gets a section of its own, thanks to its (and parent company Alphabet‘s) notorious reputation for sinking a lot of money and resources into big, hype-tastic products and projects for which it then loses interest in, like a kid with ADD. Google’s tagline should be “don’t get too attached.” There’s even a web site devoted to the Google graveyard.
On one hand, you’ve got to admire Alphabet’s ability to cut its losses and start from scratch when others refuse to admit defeat. But the practice has come back to bite it. As recently as this month, lifespan has become a not-unwarranted concern some people have about its cloud-gaming venture, Google Stadia.
From 2010 through 2015, Google scooped up a lot of little companies to beef up its social network presence, including Google Plus, which launched in 2011, finally after eight years of the company of its web apps, . Though Google Plus did have its fans, , and leaving a .and , which it subsequently shut down as part of its list of . Its own
But Google’s also killed a lot of products that had real fanbases, like(I still miss it), in 2016 and in 2013.
It was all just a dream
Google’s assassinated products are sometimes a part of categorical executions, as well. Take low-cost VR: Google and Samsung attempted to deliver cheaper solutions than full-on headsets like the and , and others; essentially, letting you roll your own headsets by popping your phone into a visor. Just this year, Samsung’s , platform and its own Cardboard headset to the increasing physical complexity of flagship phones and a largely .
Sometimes it’s a dream of a different type. MoviePass was an idea everyone loved in theory: . But the company had to in , , until it in September 2019.
Every decade is littered with the corpses of startups with the dream of taking on a big competitor or blazing a trail. with the idea of a more intimate, private, mobile-based social network to compete with the Facebook juggernaut, and in 2013 ; by 2015, it had , a South Korean messaging company, and . Other notable startup dreams that died over the past 10 years include (June 2015) and Fab (2015).
Then there are 3D TVs, which still have some admirers. The last two manufacturers, LG and Sony, .and
Death by lawyers
Intellectual property protection has been a big deal for tech startups over the past 30 years, whether you believe it an economically essential defense, legal overreach to insulate obsolete business models, or somewhere on the continuum between. The 2010s continued the litigating-out-of-existence trend that took down , , and a host of others during the previous decade. Some which fell during the last 10 years include peer-to-peer file sharing, streaming music on demand and unbundled over-the-air-TV streaming; nonprofit streaming TV startup is currently on the legal defensive. (Disclosure: CBS, the parent company of CNET, was a plaintiff in some of these litigations.)
In addition to IP challenges, some hit legal walls because they couldn’t see the anonymous writing on them. YikYak, for instance, was frequently charged with facilitating cyberbullying and harassment, complicated by its use of proximity detection.
Ten years is a long time in tech, and there’s so much detritus we’ve left on the side of by the road — and decade in tech