While the victories of 2012 are many, there are more than a few startups and digital products that have seen better days. Consider this our farewell to apps, features, trends, and websites for whom the bell tolled this past year.
Talk about hype. When Color first arrived on the scene in 2011, to say it was buzzed about is to put it extremely, extremely lightly. The app was the first of its kind, the first mass-consumer facing product that put ambient, flexible, location-based social networks on the map. As you moved, so did your social graph. It was also photo-focused, and this intersection naturally brought all sorts of privacy concerns along with it.
Still, the inherent security problems weren’t what doomed Color. Its early $41 million fundraising round meant everyone was paying attention to the startup. And its incredibly vague, disorienting, and altogether too-new social networking scheme meant it became one of those apps everyone downloaded, used for a week, and promptly forgot about.
After a series of ill-fated pivots (Color for Facebook! Color as a native app!), reports began popping up that claimed the startup’s days are numbered (although Color denies this). Still, according to rumors, it wouldn’t exactly be a sad story: The patents awarded to Color could end up awarding the original team and its investors a pretty penny.
The app that turned Foursquare into something… well, honestly, a little more useful, had to shut its doors this summer when it ran out of funds. The team was a passionate one, led by CEO and co-founder Rene Pinnell. During SXSW last spring, he said Forecast wanted to tackle “big, hairy problems” associated with event and location apps. But as even a behemoth like Foursquare struggles to realize its own purpose and utility, it makes all too much sense that those built as accessories to this ecosystem will find a labyrinth of obstacles as well.
Speaking of obstacles and location, SoLoMo easily makes the list. Now this isn’t to say that SoLoMo (or Social-Local-Mobile, if you’re just now hearing this term… and if you are, I’m very, very jealous of you) is dead – it just means that 2012 was not its year.
Just in time for SXSW 2012, it seemed like SoLoMo apps were nearing ubiquity. Highlight had a splashy launch, Glancee was stealing some attention (and has since been acquired by Facebook), and dark horses like Kismet and Sonar were also getting plenty of name recognition.
And then SXSW came and went, and so did the media’s hyper-focus on SoLoMo. Sure, Facebook issued (and then pulled) its own location-based friend finding feature, and plenty of apps still launch location-social features, but this purely ambient social networking thing just isn’t quite happening yet. Maybe 2013 will be kinder.
This year, everyone’s favorite apartment-finding application felt the wrath of the API wars when Craigslist decided to pull its data from the site. The ensuing drama between Craigslist, Padmapper, and 3taps (the company that provided Padmapper with the data Craigslist wouldn’t) played out for us all to see. But eventually Craigslist won (and users lost because, let’s face it, pretty much everyone loved Padmapper). While the site is still up and running, it’s doing so without the many, many listings that made our apartment hunts easier.
Digg founder Kevin Rose’s Oink was never much of a hit, but it was a fairly useful little app for ratings. The location-based Oink allowed you to rate specifics about locations – not just the food, but the decor, the bathrooms, the lighting, etc. But Oink’s existence was short-lived; the team shut down when Google brought Rose on board as a part of its Google Ventures effort. Now, Rose and the rest of his accelerator team from Milk are helping Google find startups to invest in.
2012 was not so kind to Twitter developers. Early in the year, Twitter warned that it would start restricting its API. Until then, the company had made no public qualms about recreating products for its proprietary app that third parties had built before. But there was some writing on the wall.
Still, when Twitter laid down the hammer and officially announced who would and wouldn’t be impacted by its new regulations, it became clear the implications were further reaching than most thought. More than a few third party apps have felt the wrath of Twitter’s increasingly closed approach, including Tweetbot, Tweetro, and News.me. Others are watching how things in the Twitter ecosystem develop with caution before they pour their efforts into a platform that will only weasel them out.
The Daily was supposed to signal a new era of journalism, a way to bridge the gap between analog and digital consumption. Unfortunately, it failed. And late in 2012, the News Corp-backed, iPad-only newspaper decided to close up shop. “From its launch, The Daily was a bold experiment in digital publishing and an amazing vehicle for innovation. Unfortunately, our experience was that we could not find a large enough audience quickly enough to convince us the business model was sustainable in the long-term,” Rupert Murdoch said earlier this month. The Daily, we hardly knew ye.
We had to say goodbye to our believed free, Web-based photo editor Picnik this year when Google decided to shutter it. Google took a handful of Picnik’s more popular features over to Google+ for in-app photo manipulation and editing. But for those who liked to use the online app on its own, those days came to an end back in April. Luckily, former Picnik developers quickly picked up the pieces and created PicMonkey, an impressive Web-based editor. Unfortunately, all those premium features just recently became paid-for, and in order to use some of PicMonkey’s best capabilities, you’ll have to pay $5 a month.
The anti-Google, Scroogle, had to close shop this past February. The privacy-first search engine was constantly being subjected to DDOS attacks, which its creator Daniel Brandt attributed to an agenda hackers had to shut his site down. “Scroogle.org is gone forever,” Brandt wrote at the time. “Even if all my DDoS problems had never started in December, Scroogle was already getting squeezed from Google’s throttling, and was already dying. It might have lasted another six months if I hadn’t lost seven servers from DDoS, but that’s about all.”
Of course, after Bing’s holiday shopping campaign this season, the term Scroogle has been neatly co-opted.