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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
Until next time, I?m Donald Bell, thanks for watching.