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CNET Top 5: Failed tech fads
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CNET Top 5: Failed tech fads

5:14 /

The sure-thing tech trend predictions that flopped big time.

Some of our most beloved technology has endured the test of time. The laptop computer has been around for 33 years. The cell phone, 30 years. Email, 20 years. But other tech trends come and go faster than you can say parachute pants. This year especially we are looking at a long list of overhyped fads that may fall flat: smart watches, Google Glass, Bitcoins, Robin Thicke. So to keep things in perspective, today I'm counting down my list of the Top 5 tech fads of the past 15 years. Starting off at #5: QR codes. I feel like this was the year that everyone finally came to their senses and stopped putting these on things. But we?ll still have to explain the past five years to our children and why we felt compelled to put QR codes on everything from billboards to breakfast cereal. I?ll admit that it was cute at first. A secret code that only nerds with smartphones could unlock. Maybe it would take you to a cool movie trailer, or get you a discount on your coffee -- but more often than not it was just a way to get you from one ad to another. Eventually, people stopped taking the bait and advertisers moved on to spamming you on Facebook. 4. Netbooks At #4: Netbooks. Who needs laptops when a crushingly small, underpowered netbook can take you to the same web for just $300? That logic helped to sell a lot of Dell Minis and Asus Eee PCs? The netbook trend was a wakeup call to manufacturers, signaling the decline of the traditional laptop. People wanted something different, something simple, and something much less expensive. And then they got it in 2010 when Apple unveiled the iPad. The netbook was a nice placeholder, but when the tablet market took off, it killed the netbook and really put the squeeze on laptops. 3. SecondLife Coming in at #3: Second Life. At a time that was post-MySpace but not yet consumed by Facebook and Twitter, the cool people were all running their avatars around Second Life and getting molested by the virtual equivalent of a Burning Man peyote vision. Not to be left out, big brands like Dell, Reebok and American Apparel were setting up virtual stores, staffed by virtual employees and leading real economists to wonder what it all meant. The GDP of Second Life was larger than most small nations. But then, like a cat to a laser pen, we all found other ways to distract ourselves online. Right now there?s a mohawked stripper with a skunk tail dancing for no one in an abandoned steam punk strip club. Where?s her economic recovery, huh? Or his. 2. 3D TV Back in reality, our #2 tech fad that was more hype than substance: 3D TV. Well really 3D in general if you think about it. After Avatar became the first movie to gross over 2 billion dollars, we tried to put 3D in everything. 3D tablets, 3D phones, 3D laptops, the Nintendo 3DS. But it was TVs that really held tight to the 3D fad. After all, if 3D was going to be the future for Hollywood, then everyone would need a way to watch that content at home too, right? Turns out the 3D fad was like reheated hype, stuffed into new hype. It was like a turducken of BS. Aside from James Cameron, no one really wanted to make 3D movies, audiences didn?t really want to pay more to see 3D movies, and they certainly didn?t want to buy a whole new TV just to get migraines at home. Now to be fair, most new TVs come with 3D compatibility, but its not what sells the TV. If you could save $100 by not having 3D, you probably wouldn?t hesitate to dump it. Alright, and now for the #1 tech fad that choked on its own hype: e-groceries. Yes, I?m reaching back to the Webvan days for this one. In the late ?90s, at the height of the dotcom boom, it seemed that the internet was going to overturn every traditional brick- and-mortar business, and none seemed more ripe for disruption than the local grocery store. Webvan and others secured millions of dollars to quickly establish themselves as key players. They built warehouses, bought fleets of delivery trucks, and hired thousands of workers, bracing themselves for the insane demand of a public unshackled from having to waste their time pushing wobbly- wheeled carts around big box grocery stores. And then? nothing. It turns out that old habits die hard. Putting aside the insane cost of all the infrastructure involved, people just didn?t want to shop for groceries online. What they want is for the groceries to magically appear in their kitchen. Until the Star Trek food replicator becomes a reality, the supermarket is going to be just fine. Unfortunately, it cost Webvan around 700 million dollars to figure that one out the hard way. CLOSE -------------------- So there you have it, five of the biggest, lamest fads in recent tech history, though I?m starting to think we?ll have a few more to add before the year is though. For more Top 5 videos head over to Top5.CNET.com where you can also leave me a comment with your own failed tech fad nominations. Until next time, I?m Donald Bell, thanks for watching.
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