Some tech products burn out, others fade away. From streaming movie reviews to blood-testing scams to ugly Geocities pages, these are the products, services and brands we said goodbye to in 2018.
For most of us, the Yahoo-controlled GeoCities died in 2009. In Japan, it somehow hung on another 10 years. If you're too young to remember, this was a community site, really a proto-social-network, where anyone could publish a hideously ugly web page. The final pages now have an expiration date: March 2019. For a little nostalgia hit, check out the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine for a snapshot.
A once-hot blood-testing machine company valued at $9 billion, Theranos made an ignominious exit following a huge fraud scandal that went on for several years for making false claims about its blood analyzer. Theranos had laid off the bulk of its employees by April 2018, settled with the Securities and Exchange commission, and on September 12 posted an insolvency notice on its site. TL:DR, the product never worked, and the company knew it.
Portable gaming has changed a lot since the PlayStation Vita debuted in 2011, so it's no surprise that Sony finally declared it would cease production in Japan in 2019. Sony says it doesn't plan another gaming portable, which makes sense as competing with the massive success of the Nintendo Switch (and 3DS) seems like a fight you don't want to pick. Note that this comes after the earlier PSP (PlayStation Portable) also failed to catch on.
The beeping, booping absolutely adorable rolling robot companion that made a splash at CES 2017 and CES 2018 will likely never see the inside of your home. Mayfield Robotics announced in July 2018 that it was ceasing production of this promising li'l 'bot and refunding preorders. Why? It just didn't fit into the business plans of Bosch, a company whose products run the gamut from power tools to sensors and is the power behind the incubator that helped birth Kuri.
An immersion circulator designed to let you cook sou- vide-style in a standard pot by maintaining a consistent water temperature, the Sansaire Delta was forced to shut down in February when it ran into problems with its manufacturer. Too bad, this was a good trend to capitalize on this year.
Facebook may be feeling the fallout of offering up the intimate details of its two-billion-plus users' lives to pretty much anyone with an advertising budget. But no one fell harder than Cambridge Analytica, which acquired the data "improperly" and then used it to influence US elections and the UK Brexit campaign by selling psychographic profiles for targeted political ads. That earned the two companies a spot in our list of top tech screwups for 2018. But unlike Facebook, CA gave up the ghost in May, filing for bankruptcy.
Don't feel bad if you forgot -- or never heard about -- Path, the one-time Facebook competitor that launched in 2012 with a vision of small, simpler social communities rather than the friends of friends of friends of random strangers more common in social media. In September it tweeted about the upcoming closure, and as of mid-November it evaporated into the ether.
I'd never actually heard of this fitness startup launched by Dick Costolo, former CEO of Twitter. It was predicated on peer pressure: you join with a group of friends and announce your daily plans for healthy living. I had to include it because of the reason it failed: the "abstinence violation effect." If you need to be motivated that much, you'll lack the motivation to keep checking in. Raise your hand if you saw that coming a mile off.
We've been waiting, waiting and waiting for Apple to finally acknowledge that it was getting out of the router business, given that its AirPort line hadn't seen a new product since 2011. In April, the company finally announced that when supplies ran out for all its AirPort products, the line would go away, and the AirPort Extreme base station was almost completely sold out by May. Now it's on Apple's Vintage and Obsolete list. But as a parting gift, Apple delivered a firmware update to the old routers supplying AirPlay 2 support, essentially turning it into a (bulky) wireless speaker dongle.
Action camera-maker GoPro made an attempt to break DJI's grip on the drone market with the Karma, but the company was having enough trouble staying profitable with its popular mainstay Hero line. At the very end of 2017 the company announced it was getting out of the drone biz and looking for a deep-pocketed suitor.
Another one that was easily forgotten, in 2012 Klout tried to put a single number on the influence of high-profile folks on social media and soon fell out of the minds of anyone who might have cared. It was eventually bought by Lithium, which announced in May that "the Klout acquisition provided Lithium with valuable artificial intelligence (AI) and machine-learning capabilities but Klout as a standalone service is not aligned with our long-term strategy."
Old Apple products never die, they just get pulled from the Apple Store. This year's disappearances included the iPhone X, iPhone SE, iPhone 6S and the last MacBook Pro without a Touch Bar, the 15-inch from 2015. The legacy of the iPhone X's notch lives on, though (and the classic X might be coming back to Japan).
It wasn't hugely popular, but Valve's box that let you play Steam games on your TV was actually pretty good. In November, the company announced that once existing supplies ran out, it would not respawn. Instead, Steam's playing up its app-based solution, which as yet is still in beta on Android and MIA on iOS. You could just drag a gaming PC over to your TV and hook it up directly via HDMI, or try this Raspberry Pi hack.
There always has to be at least one big crowdfunding disaster: This year's standout looks like Ossic/SonicVR: The company raised over $3.2 million (on a $100,000 goal) for its Ossic X 3D surround headphones, produced about 250 of them, and then disappeared, leaving behind angry backers and a class-action lawsuit.
Social media youngster Snap partnered with Square to launch its peer-to-peer payment service in 2014, but it didn't even make it to its fifth anniversary because everyone wants to middleman your money. It announced it was shutting down the service in August.
One of the big problem with the smart home is its dependence on cloud services; when the company folds, it can frequently takes the intelligence of your devices with it. That's the case with Halo Smart Labs, which announced it was shuttering in July, leaving your the Halo+ Smoke Alarm without the ability to connect to the internet. Take a walk through the smart home graveyard.
The company behind Baxter, a robot designed to work with humans in small spaces -- or a "knife-wielding robot grocery clerk" -- closed its doors in the fall of 2018. In a farewell letter, COO Jim Lawton said of the company's work in collaborative robotics "In the end, we just didn't get it quite right."
Update December 26, 2018: corrected Lawton's title.
Life for Kuvee, a Kickstarter-funded startup with a bottle designed to extend the life of wine after it's been opened, turned to vinegar in March when it shut down. The CEO blamed the Napa fires for its troubles, and stated, "to properly educate the market, we would need a much louder voice and considerably more capital." It needed more than that. Unfortunately, the FreshPour requires proprietary cartridges, now leaving owners with a useless piece of smart-home history.
Popular narrative game studio Telltale Games shut down suddenly in September after laying off a chunk of its staff without warning and leaving the fate of eagerly anticipated Stranger Things and Walking Dead games up in the air. Skybound later announced that it had picked up the Walking Dead development.
Google giveth and Google taketh away. In September, it put an expiration date of March 2019 on its Inbox Gmail client and then gave Google+, the unpopular social network, a pink slip in October, with the news that it would shut down in April 2019. Coincidentally on the heels of announcing a data vulnerability which had left the personal information of up to half a million users exposed. At least Inbox will kind of live on, as its best features have been folded into regular, old Gmail. The company also decided to kill its Allo messaging client in March 2019.
Mad Catz, purveyor of uniquely designed game accessories, liquidated its assets in March 2017 after a couple years of financial struggles. The bulk of them went to a Hong Kong-based holding company whose employees were instrumental in creating Mad Catz' products, and at CES in January, it brought the brand back with updated versions of its gear.
The once-mammoth video rental chain is down to a single store in Oregon after the last two stores in Alaska went belly up -- despite John Oliver's attempts to save them by donating Russell Crowe's jockstrap (and more) in hopes of giving people a reason to pay a visit. We don't give the lone remaining store good odds of making it through 2019.
Whether or not the claim that its biggest investor is trying to drive it out of business in order to obtain its intellectual property is true, it remains that the cutting-edge automaker is living on the edge. Despite money woes that continue to plague it, it's still trying to get its first car out the door and talking up an IPO for 2020.
Oy, the tribulations of MoviePass, which has modified its subscription offerings at least 11 times in the past 7 years, refused to let go of some subscribers, and temporarily ran out of money this year. Its latest plan: spin it off into a separate company from its data-mining parent, Helios and Matheson Analytics.
Phones are getting bigger and bigger, and with the discontinuance of the iPhone SE, Apple has put one very big nail in the small phone's coffin.
Palm was the king in the prephone years when PDAs ruled, but it just couldn't innovate fast enough in the changing market, even after being acquired by HP in 2010. In 2014, TV-maker TCL bought the brand from HP, and this year it launched a baby phone sidekick -- throwing technology at the problem of...technology overload.
Microsoft ceased production of the Kinect body tracking camera for its Xbox game console in 2017 when it was seven years old. This year, it was brought back to life -- its guts at least -- as a commercial product that developers could support via Microsoft's less-fun Azure cloud computing platform.
Facebook's M virtual assistant chatbot had a short life, emerging in 2015 and never leaving beta, only to leave us in January 2019. But its soul will live on in Facebook Messenger as "M Suggestions." The company also decided to remove its controversial Trending Topics in June and the Friend List Feeds view in August.
Standalone toy stores like Toys R Us are about as rare as CD-filled music shops now. Toys R Us is pretty dead, even as it's playing with our emotions again. After closing its remaining stores and declaring bankruptcy in March, 2018, the company cancelled its bankruptcy auction and decided it could follow in the footsteps of companies like Polaroid and live on, in a fashion, by selling its brand.
The most popular and accessible smart garden accessory, plant sensors, were popping up all over the place in 2014; by now, they've almost disappeared. Is the category dying or just lying fallow?
It's not dead -- there are still a lot of phones with a headphone jack on the market to declare that yet. But one of the big stalwarts in the jack camp, OnePlus, shocked us this fall when it sacrificed our analog audio friend in exchange for the in-screen fingerprint sensor in its OnePlus 6T.
Because Apple doesn't rev its laptop designs as often as Windows-system manufacturers, it takes longer for bad ideas to work their way out of the line, and even longer for Apple to admit failure. So I'll keep begging: Please, get rid of the Touch Bar. It defeats the purpose of a secondary input for creatives -- its primary target audience -- which is to keep you from having to look away from the screen, and actually makes things worse.
Snap Spectacles, the camera sunglasses with direct upload to the social media site, made my endangered list last year because of unspectacular sales and a flawed concept. But Snap doubled down and released a marginally updated version this year while positioning itself as a camera company rather than a social media network. I'm keeping them on the endangered list for 2019, because there are no signs of new life in the specs.