Each year new technologies, companies, and social and political forces displace and disrupt old technologies, companies, and ideas.
In the 1920s and 1930s the car displaced the horse, in 1996 DVDs replaced the VCR, in 2010 Netflix pushed Blockbuster into bankruptcy and slowly replaced the DVD too, in 2008 digital cameras replaced the Polaroid, in 2011 Amazon pushed Borders into bankruptcy.
“This event was off the charts”
Gary Vaynerchuk was so impressed with TNW Conference 2016 he paused mid-talk to applaud us.
It’s been called “creative destruction,” the old making way for the new and for the march of progress, but it inevitably means that some of the things we identify with, use, and enjoy are the very thing destroyed.
2016 was no different. We saw major tech companies slide into dissolution, new technology literally explode, and faith in the effectiveness of a few old technologies disappear.
Below is a list of a few of things that went the way of the dodo in 2016:
In July Yahoo, the fifth-most visited website, agreed to be acquired by Verizon in what Forbes called the “saddest $5 Billion Deal in Tech History.”
Yahoo at its peak was one of the top dogs in the internet industry. An iconic $125 billion company. Yahoo was founded in 1994 as “Jerry’s Guide to the World Wide Web,” and in 1996 went public with millions of users and by 2000 was at $500 a share. At that point Yahoo was at the forefront of search technology with millions of users using it as their portal to the web.
Unfortunately for Yahoo they squandered this lead, never evolving beyond a portal to the web by enabling strong mobile, search, or social functions. The company even missed chances to buy young versions of Google and Facebook. Yahoo’s revenue and market share peaked in 2008 and since then has continued to fall as their users have been drawn to new websites and apps.
In fact, if not for the investment by Jerry Yang, the founder of Yahoo, of $1 billion in Alibaba in 2005 Yahoo’s core business never would have been enough to keep it alive to today. That investment eventually became worth more than that core business.
Marissa Mayer, a Google exec, was brought on in 2012 to try to turn the flagging business behind, but ultimately her reign was plagued by lack of strategy, mismanagement, and severe cyber security issues. and failed to turn Yahoo around.
While parts of Yahoo’s operating business will likely remain under Verizon’s supervision the internet giant will never be independent again. The acquisition leaves Yahoo users and employees in a strange limbo.
The Lithium Battery, Galaxy Note 7, Hoverboards, and other exploding devices
The review for the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 on CNET is short, “Don’t buy the Galaxy Note 7, and return it if you’ve already bought it.” Prior to launch the same phone was seen as the best Android phone on the market. Shortly after launch, however, when there were 35 reported incidents of the phone catching fire Samsung began a mass recall of the one million phones sold. When the supposedly fixed replacement phones caught on fire too Samsung finally terminated the phone when even their fix could not stop the flames.
The reason for the explosions was fairly simple. Just like the exploding hoverboards that made noise early in 2016 smart phones use lithium ion battery packs for power. The liquid inside most lithium ion batteries is extremely flammable. If a battery short circuits – which is relatively easy, because the positive and negative sides of the battery are only separated by a thin plastic barrier – that flammable fluid can catch fire.
The Galaxy Note 7 is not the first or last phone to suffer from battery fires – iPhones have had this issue – and in reality only a small number of phones are likely affected – .01 percent – but the PR damage has been done.
The end result is that the flagship Android phone of 2016 is dead and never coming back.
Vine no more
In 2012 Vine was acquired by Twitter and became the internet’s premier tool for short-form videos. Over the next two years Vine would generate countless memes and provide a six-second platform for users to become internet sensations – user Logan Paul’s Vines looped 4 billion times and earned him $200,000 to create a single Vine for a brand.
But then all of a sudden in 2014 Vine peaked – research firm 7Park Data reported that in August of 2014 3.64 percent of all Android users opened Vine, today that number is only 0.66 percent. Competitive challenges had emerged in the form of Instagram video and Snapchat. Many Vine celebrities left for these platforms and marketing dollars followed.
While the app achieved incredible cultural relevance and popularity in a short time, unfortunately it never managed to really grow its user base or make money. And while the app continued to generate many of the most popular memes and powerful cultural moments in the short-form video space, other apps drew twice as many users by adding improved features. All of which ultimately helped to diminish its benefits for Twitter, its parent company, which has been struggling with its own core business problems.
Earlier this year Vine executives began fleeing and Twitter began exploring selling the app. They ultimately found no buyers, but it was the beginning of the end, and in October Twitter announced that it would shut down Vine mobile app in the next few months.
At one point Blackberry was the leading mobile-phone vendor and inspired a kind of cultish devotion usually limited to Apple products, but in July the company gave up its flagship design and announced it was leaving the hardware industry altogether. It has been a long fall from the top for the former king of mobile.
In 1999 an electronics and computer science consulting company called Research in Motion released the first Blackberry, a device designed to allow workers to send and receive emails while away from office. By 2004 on the strength of the Blackberry, RIM hit two million subscribers using its devices and by 2007 RIM became the most valuable company on the TSX with a market capitalization surpassing $67 billion.
And then in 2008 the first iPhone was released and the BlackBerry Storm, the first touchscreen Blackberry, was critically panned. Although in 2010 RIM surpassed 40 million users, 2008 and the release of the iPhone were the beginning of the end. RIM was never able to release a successful competitor to the revolutionary smartphone. From then on the devices released by Blackberry were really just one Flop after another. By 2016 Blackberry had less than one percent of the smartphone market compared to the more than 50 percent it had a decade earlier.
MeerKat’s lifespan was short.
The live-streaming app seemed to come out of thin air in early 2015 and take SXSW by storm. But only a little later Periscope, an extremely similar app which also seemed to apparate out of thin air, was released and bought by Twitter for $100 million before anyone knew it existed.
And just as quickly as it had risen MeerKat’s popularity was extinguished by Periscope, which has now in turn been killed by Facebook Live. As of the 30th of September Meerkat is officially dead.
The Pebble watch was a trailblazer for both crowdfunded tech and the modern smartwatch era, but this year it died.
It was competition from Samsung and Apple which ultimately crushed the appropriately named Pebble in a market that has never reached the maturity or size that manufacturers hoped for. The era of Pebble came to an end this month when it was acquired by the fitness tracker manufacturer, Fitbit.
After the deal was signed Pebble announced that it would cease selling all devices under the Pebble brand.
The iPhone headphone jack
For the iPhone 7, rather than connecting to your phone through a jack, users use a lightning-based headphone or Bluetooth. A small price to pay in Apple’s quest to make its products thinner, simpler, and more reliable in the enduring vision of Steven Jobs.
Apple also made this decision in order to improve audio quality and headphone design as well as create opportunities for third parties to experiment with new audio features and designs.
Gawker.com was the offensive and sometimes informative flagship news and gossip site for Gawker Media Group. The company was founded in 2003 by Nick Denton and died in 2016 as a result of a brutal battle with Silicon Valley’s Peter Thiel and Hulk Hogan.
Some will miss it and many will not.
Gawker prided itself on being a place where journalists were given complete freedom to write “whatever the hell you want.” This resulted in Gawker walking a fine line between being informative and interesting as opposed to libellous and scandalous.
Crossing this line would ultimately be its undoing. Its death is a result of mortal wounds from an invasion of privacy law suit brought up by Hulk Hogan over a grainy sex video released in October 2012.
The suit was secretly funded by Thiel who held a grudge against Gawker for revealing that he was gay in 2007. The pair ultimately won the lawsuit to the tune of $31 million. What remains of Gawker was bought by US Spanish-language TV network Univision.