Over the years, we've worked hard to cover products and services as they've
launched, and well into their successes and failures. And like any
business venture, there's risk involved.
The Web is no different, leaving many sites to close up
shop--sometimes just a few months after what their creators had hoped
would be a successful launch. In other cases, it's a slow death march,
stretched out with the occasional change in strategy, or a last-ditch
2010 brought the closure of quite a few sites. Some names on this
list you'll recognize right away. Others may leave you scratching your
head, which may be just one of the many reasons they're no longer with
We've gathered 15 such sites and services that were open at the start
of the year and for one reason or another closed up shop. Click
through to find out what they were, what they did, and what happened.
Google launched Wave in early 2009 as a mutt of sorts. It wasn't e-mail, it wasn't IM, and you'd be daft for calling it a word processor. Yet, it was all these things wrapped into one product, and billed as a real-time collaboration tool.
While quite a bit could be done with Wave, consumers and developers alike had trouble wrapping their head around what it really excelled at. This was made even less apparent with the launch of Google's Buzz product less than a year later, a social sharing and discussion tool the company baked into Gmail.
To be fair, Google Wave is not well and truly dead. You can still go there and work on things, as well as export what you already have. The site will also continue to live on into next year, until Google shuts it down for real. That said, the company has completely halted active development on it.
Cuil was a search engine that promised the world but failed to deliver even some very basic things early on. Its launch was marked by some very high traffic, which overloaded the site. But instead of it simply shutting down, it started returning bad results--something that was later fixed, but not until people had moved on.
Prior to the launch, Cuil claimed to have some 120 billion Web pages indexed, compared with Google's 40 billion. Furthermore, instead of ranking pages by relevancy (as Google does), Cuil promised to find the contextual meaning of pages, and offer results by category. This would let you do something like search for "Harry Potter," then be able to delve into the actors and directors from the films, the books, and even fan sites from a single results page.
Cuil ended up shutting its doors in mid-September without so much as a peep.
Facebook Lite was launched in September of 2009 as a stripped down version of the site that would run faster on underpowered machines, or simply computers with slow Internet connections. Facebook, however, positioned it as a simpler way for newbies to get into the social networking experience.
For instance, users that headed to lite.facebook.com would be greeted to a version of Facebook that did away with Facebook's growing side navigation pane. It also didn't show quite as many advertisements, or the service's "what's on your mind?" posting box.
Facebook ended the project in April without saying too much about why. Though based on the nonstop onslaught of features the company added to its service over the course of 2010, it seems most likely they simply did not want to have to support a second version of the site.
Yahoo's SearchMonkey was less of a consumer service, and more of a tool for developers to make search results look better using structured data. For instance, if you were searching for a restaurant, a site like Yelp could use SearchMonkey to have it show any related photos, as well as list things like the aggregate user rating, the phone number, and the hours of operation--all in a tidy format.
The idea behind that lives on with publishers simply adding listing information in a standard format that can be picked up by multiple search engines. What really went the way of the dodo were the custom result applications, which would let users pick the ways they wanted to restructure results data.
Lala was a streaming music service that offered users a way to buy songs for 10 cents apiece, which could be streamed from the company's servers at any time. The company also had a paid service that would let users buy tracks outright.
The service actually started out as a way for users to swap CDs but later made the jump to streaming tracks instead. This streaming technology is what made it a red hot acquisition target for Apple, which bought the company last December. Just six months after that, Apple decided to shut it down, offering users who had purchased tracks through Lala credit to iTunes.
Since the acquisition, and even leading up to the closure of the site, there was much speculation about what, exactly Apple intended to do with the technology. Included at the very top of the list is a subscription-based, streaming-focused version of iTunes, which had been churning in the rumor mill long before Lala came into Apple's radar.
GOOG-411 was never a Web site per se, but it was a Webby service, which is why we're including it.
GOOG-411 debuted at a time when smartphones were just beginning to come into vogue among consumers and managed to offer a way to search the Web from feature phones without data plans. As smartphone adoption grew, it became less and less of a relevant product for most people--especially with Google baking the functionality into its Android phones.
The service did play a significant role in helping Google build up a data set of human speech patterns, which has ultimately helped in providing faster, and more accurate results.
Feature phone users in the U.S. can still do searches by texting "GOOGLE" (466453) with their query.
Courtesy of <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/sylvainbriant/192523982/" />Sylvain Briant</a>
Vox was a specialized blogging tool from Six Apart, the makers of MovableType and TypePad.
When Vox launched in late 2006, it was one of the few blogging platforms out there that let users define the level of privacy they wanted for each post--something we now take for granted on places like Facebook. This became important though, given the social nature of the site, which encouraged Vox bloggers to visit other users' sites.
Six Apart gave its users about a month to clean house and take their blogs elsewhere, including the company's own TypePad product, for which there was arguably quite a bit of overlap.
Yahoo Publisher Network
In what could more harshly be described as a clone of Google's AdSense, the Yahoo Publisher Network was a tool for site owners to add quick and easy advertising to their Web pages.
Similar to AdSense, site owners who utilized the Publisher Network could stick code onto the back end of their sites that would generate contextual ads on the fly. Yahoo launched it back in 2005 with the promise that Yahoo would vet the advertisements to make sure they were of a certain quality level.
At the end of March of this year, Yahoo sent an e-mail to Yahoo Publisher Network users telling them the service would be reaching the end of life just a month later, and that if they wanted to keep serving ads, to use Chitika's ad network instead.
Rudder was another financial analysis service on this list that would take your account credentials from a number of financial institutions, and give you a bird's eye view of the goings on.
Rudder's killer feature was telling you what you had left for discretionary spending based on how much money was going out in bills, compared with when your next paycheck was on the way. It could also deliver some of this information in e-mail form, meaning you could get an update without having to manually check in every day.
Where Rudder's creators intended to steer it as a business, was to offer up coupons to various places where users had frequently spent money, or to competitors who offered similar products and services. The company had also created an API for developers to build Widget applications that could run inside of the Rudder interface, though this didn't really take off.
The service launched at the DemoFall conference in 2008, and officially closed its doors in November.
Eventvue was an infrastructure play of sorts, giving conferences a way to tack on a social back channel where attendees could network.
Unlike something like an IRC channel, or a Twitter hashtag, Eventvue's big focus was on giving attendees a place that would be open both before and after a a conference had happened. It would also do some neat things like go through the list of attendee e-mails and map them out to Twitter user names, so as to automatically pull in any conference-related tweets from the people who were there.
Some high-profile uses of the service included DemoFall 2009, where Eventvue was offered up to attendees as a way to talk during the conference. Eventually, the chat feature became the big focuses of the product, and as Eventvue's founders said in a note about the site's closure, that came at the expense of the company's grander vision, which never came to fruition.
One of Eventvue's co-founders, Josh Fraser, has since moved on to a new project, called Torbit, which promises to make sites faster.
Radar was a bit of a niche photo- and video-sharing site that would let users take and upload media from their phones or computers. On the mobile side, you could use its app on just about any phone either through an app, or the special upload e-mail address it would give you upon sign up.
One very unique aspect of Radar was that it was a private affair. You shared photos only with the people that you wanted, as opposed to the vast majority of other social photo sharing services, which would put everyone's shots together into one big stream.
Over the years, Radar began to tie into other sites like Facebook and Flickr so that you could browse and post to these places. But with those two sites also offering increasingly extensive privacy controls, the reason for using yet another photo host had most people scratching their heads.
Wesabe popped up around the same time as Mint.com and aimed to do some of the same things. Users would plug in log-in credentials to various financial institutions, in turn for Wesabe's system to evaluate financial activity. What that amounted to was an analysis of your spending habits, as well as some suggestions on how to save money.
Wesabe shut its doors as a service but lives on as an open-source project people can download and run on their own. Wesabe's Web site continues to run as a help forum.
Verifiable took whatever data you could throw at it (like a spreadsheet or a table) and turned it into pretty charts. Users could then go into the data and give it a rating, make changes, and download it locally.
The only problem is that there wasn't really a business. Unlike something like Swivel (which also closed this year, but it set to re-open), there was not a private component, or an idea of premium data sets.
There is a happy ending though: Verifiable's creators have started another project called SaneBox, which will go through your e-mail in-box and figure out what's important and what's not.
Windows Live Spaces
Like Google's Wave, Windows Live Spaces is another site on this list that is not well and not truly dead just yet. Users can still go there and make new posts. But beginning next month, the site will be a view-only, before being completely shut down in mid-March.
Microsoft announced plans to shut down its blogging site in September in favor of Automattic's WordPress. As part of the transition, Microsoft offered users a way migrate their blog to WordPress, as well as making WordPress the default option on the company's Windows Live Writer software.
Quicken Online's end of life is one of the few successes on this list in that its closure made way for Mint.com, which Intuit had acquired last year to the tune of $170 million. But one thing that kept the transition from being a walk in the park was that Intuit made it rather difficult.
The company had originally promised that all Quicken Online data would be transferred automatically, before later changing it to a manual transfer. It also made users do that transition before the year was up, causing trouble for those who intended to keep using the Quicken Online product to get a full year of standardized financial records--something Mint could not quite match on a feature to feature comparison.
Quicken Online was shut down for good on August 29.