15 sites that died in 2009

The year 2009 saw the launch of many new and genuinely useful Web services, as well as continued advances from sites that weathered the economic fallout from the year prior. But not all was sunshine and daisies. Sites, large and small, closed up shop this year.

For many of the sites on this list, the main reason for closure was that it simply cost too much to keep things running. Other times it was due to them not getting enough users through the door to make ends meet.

Here are 15 notable losses from 2009, in chronological order.

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Google Jaiku, Dodgeball, Notebook

Google Jaiku, Dodgeball, and Notebook
Death announcement: January 2009

Apparently the whole "spring cleaning" thing does not apply to Google, which did its housekeeping two weeks into the new year. In one day. the search giant announced that it would soon be shuttering its Jaiku microblogging service, social network Dodgeball (which it had purchased four years prior), as well as its Notebook service. For the sake of simplicity, we've condensed them into one slide, and one product in our count up to 15.

Other, less high-profile sites that were taken down as part of the sweep include Google's video service, which became largely useless after the company bought YouTube in 2006, as well as Google Catalog Search and Google Mashup Editor.

Interestingly enough Jaiku lives on, although not as a funded Google project. The site's about page now notes that it's being run by a skeleton crew of Google's engineers who fix bugs and give it some attention when they're not on the clock. Despite this, many of the site's once-prominent users have left for greener pastures.

Also, Dodgeball went on to become re-imagined by one of its co-founders who had left Google prior to the site being shuttered. Dodgeball co-founder Dennis Crowley came up with Foursquare, a geographically-inclined social-networking tool that lets users check-in when they get to bars, restaurants, and other local hot spots.
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Yahoo Briefcase

Yahoo Briefcase
Death announcement: January 2009

Yahoo's Briefcase was a somewhat useless service, and Yahoo knew it. The site offered 30MB of online storage, a number that was quite useful when it was launched (1999), but that was quickly eclipsed by Web storage providers, and even Web mail services.

Yahoo gave users two months to claim their files before shelving the product for good.
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Jubii

Jubii
Death announcement: January 2009

Jubii was a Swiss Army knife of online communication utilities. It included e-mail, text chat, VoIP, and file hosting--all in one tool. We gave it a look back in early 2007 and came away unimpressed with incomplete tools that did not tie into any other existing services.

The Jubii brand was actually an attempt to repackage the Lycos brand to U.S. users, however it, along with the European versions of Lycos Mail and Tripod Internet hosting, were shelved in mid-February.
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HP Upline

HP Upline
Death announcement: February 2009

HP's Upline was an online backup solution built off of Titanize, a product it had absorbed as a result of acquiring makers Opelin in 2007. Upline let users back up their home and work computers to the cloud for a yearly fee. And unlike some of the other storage providers, Upline's paid plans offered unlimited storage--a nice plus for desktop users with large hard drives.

Upline's death notice came in late February, and the service was completely shut down at the end of March, giving users a little more than a month to grab their files from HP's servers.
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Microsoft Encarta

Microsoft Encarta
Death announcement: March 2009

Microsoft's Encarta began as a software encyclopedia and later moved to the Web. Microsoft ran it as a subscription service, but in order to compete with free services like Wikipedia, the company provided portions of it that were supplemented with ads to non-subscribers.

In late March, the software giant announced that it would be discontinuing both the online and software-based versions of the site, but that it would keep the product going until late-October before shelving it. The company continues to use Encarta's namesake for its free, online dictionary service.
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Wikia Search

Wikia Search
Death announcement: March 2009

Wikia Search launched in January of 2008 with an oddball idea: let users control the rankings of search results. The hope was to let people constantly vote up more relevant pages, while letting the less-relevant pages move down. This was after a machine algorithm had gone through and come up with the results in the first place.

Wikia (and Wikipedia) co-founder Jimmy Wales hoped the system would spread across the Web, as it was made open-source. But it didn't. At its peak the site was drawing some 10,000 users a month, which was markedly lower than some of Wikia's other ongoing projects. To make matters worse, Google had launched its own, quite similar solution called Search Wiki, which it deployed to all its users--thus offering much of the same functionality on a much larger scale.

Wales called it quits on Wikia Search in March. The site now links to Wikia's Answers site.
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SpiralFrog

SpiralFrog
Death announcement: March 2009

SpiralFrog shut its doors on March 19th, but that was far from the end of the drama for the music streaming service. In its three-year run, the company had amassed $9 million in debt, and sent a message to the music industry that ad-supported music was not a viable, long-term money-making solution.

Matters were made worse when it appeared that those inside the company had sold user e-mail addresses to third-party companies, a move that was made just before the company changed hands to creditors. This also went squarely against the site's original terms of service, which assured users that their personal information would be kept confidential.

Other woes included unpaid employees, and music that was left unplayable due to stringent DRM that required visiting the site every 60 days to get it renewed, making this one of the worst site closures of the year.
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Photo by: <a href="http://www.yarnellwill.com/spiralfrog.php" />Yarnell Will</a> / Caption by:

Yahoo Jumpcut

Yahoo Jumpcut
Death announcement: April 2009

Jumpcut was a company Yahoo acquired in 2006. It let users edit video clips right in their browser, as well as host them when they were through.

Jumpcut's death is similar to that of the long, drawn-out ones you see in movies. The kill shot was actually fired back in December of 2008 when Yahoo began to limit users from uploading new clips to the video editing service. However Yahoo went for an extremity instead of the vital organs, extending the life of the site for four months with little or no explanation on when it would be put out to pasture. Then, in mid-April the company announced that it was indeed shutting down the site, which it kept open for another two months. The site was officially put to rest on June 15, 2009.
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Yahoo Geocities

Yahoo Geocities
Death announcement: April 2009

Yahoo picked up personal Web site maker Geocities back in January of 1999 for a staggering $3.65 billion in stock. Though poor, post-purchase choices from Yahoo that changed the site's terms of service and core functionality led many of its most fervent users to other hosting providers. This was made even worse by the rise of easy blogging tools and social networks, which for many was a simpler way to publish personal information.

Yahoo announced in late-April, that it would be shuttering the site. It then made good on that promise in late October.

Seen here on the left is an homage to the site's early Web 1.0 look, by popular Web comic XKCD, which kept the Geocities look for an entire day.
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Yahoo 360

Yahoo 360
Death announcement: May 2009

Yahoo 360 was Yahoo's attempt at merging several of its services into one, so as to create a social network the likes of LiveJournal. Users could jot down blog posts, follow other users, and pull in bits of data from other Yahoo services including Flickr. Though many simply used it as a blogging tool. Four years after its creation Yahoo pulled the plug.

The site wasn't killed off entirely though. Despite its lack of popularity at large, it was still quite popular in Vietnam. As such, Yahoo has kept it going as a localized version of the service, which is still up (and can be seen on the left)--unlike the original version, which shut down in mid-July.
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Searchme

Searchme
Death announcement: July 2009

Searchme's visual search engine launched in private beta in March of 2008. This was after picking up a $31 million round of funding, led by Sequoia Capital. The service provided a large thumbnail of each site from its search results, letting users get a preview of it before clicking.

In 2008, it launched both a music streaming service and an iPhone app, for which we gave a glowing review. However, neither innovation was enough to get it an additional round of funding. As a result, it shut itself down, taking the engine with it. Shortly thereafter, it offered its intellectual property rights (PDF) to the highest bidder, a deal apparently nobody was willing to take.
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Windows Live Events

Windows Live Events
Death announcement: August 2009

Windows Live Events was Microsoft's effort to replace services like Evite, Facebook events, MyPunchbowl, etc. It was launched as part of the Windows Live rebranding back in late 2007, and let users create events that could be shared publicly. More importantly, it was a smooth move to get users friendly with other Microsoft services like Live Spaces and Live Messenger.

In August, Microsoft announced that it would be closing up Windows Live Events in favor of building some of its functionality into Windows Live Calendar. In September, the company disabled the capability to create new events. Come April 2010, the site will be well and truly dead, as Microsoft plans to take it offline entirely.
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SplashCast

SplashCast
Death announcement: August 2009

Portland, Ore.-based SplashCast was one of our favorites when it came on the scene in early 2007. It started out as a way to share multiple media types in one simple, embedded player. Shortly thereafter it strayed from its roots, becoming a publishing tool for mass-media content providers. Later on the company let users chat while watching hosted TV shows.

What ended the site was simply a cash flow problem. In a going-out-of-business post on the company's blog, CEO Mike Berkeley chalked up SplashCast's demise to being unable to get more funding from venture capitalists.
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Barnes & Noble: Quamut

Barnes & Noble: Quamut
Death announcement: August 2009

Bookseller Barnes & Noble launched Quamut in March of 2008. The site hosted how-to guides that could be purchased both as a digital and a physical, laminated copy. Most ran anywhere from $3 to $6, and covered all manner of topics from software programs to cooking techniques. It also had a user-created Wiki section that let people create their own guides.

Barnes & Noble discontinued the Quamut site and the user-generated Wiki in August, however, it still sells some of the physical printed guides online and in its stores.
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Riya

Riya
Death announcement: August 2009

Facial recognition was big in 2009, but not for face-finding tech Riya. It shuttered its doors in late August. Things could have turned out quite differently though, as it had come close to being snatched up by Google just four years prior. Google, however, went with competitor Neven Vision instead.

In many ways Riya was simply overshadowed by tech giants who had time to catch up with their own facial recognition products. This included Google with its Picasa Web albums and photo library software (both of which were offered free of charge), as well as Apple, which introduced its own facial recognition features as a part of its latest iLife release.

Still, the company made a big splash when it pitched at 2006's DEMO conference, and founders Munjal Shah and Burak Gokturk went on to do great things with their other project, Like.com.
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Bonus: GrandCentral

Bonus site: GrandCentral
Death announcement: November 2009

GrandCentral, the voice service picked up from Google in 2007, then kept dormant for more than a year, will see its end on December 31st. But it's not actually the end of GrandCentral as a service. It was reborn earlier this year as Google Voice.

In lieu of the fact that the two services were essentially the same, and that Google Voice was its second iteration, Google in late November, sent an e-mail to GrandCentral users that the site would be closed down in favor of moving everyone over to Google Voice. Come next week, Google will make good on that promise.
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