Biggest Losers – My Top 5 Over Hyped Tech Failures

A friend and I were talking about making an anti time capsule; essentially listing technologies that were super hyped at the time but quickly sank into oblivion. So here is my top 5 list with a bonus phoenix at the end.

Segway

Segway

This may be the king of the hype cycle with no less than Steve Jobs claiming that it was going to change the way cities were built.

“If enough people see the machine you won’t have to convince them to architect cities around it. It’ll just happen.” — Steve Jobs, quoted in a book proposal

Google Wave

google_wave_logoWhen Google first announced Wave people clamored for invites. After they released the first 100,000 there were blog posts about how one could get invited. Having a Wave account showed you were on the cutting edge and in the know.

Google Wave was only around for a year, but we will all remember it as a hugely hyped failure from Australia.

Webvan

webvan

Webvan, the grocery delivery service started by the founder of Borders books stores, took $1.2 billion in funding during the dotcom bubble. To be fair, today Fresh Direct seems to be doing just fine, so this is a failure in execution over vision. But it is still a pretty spectacular failure.

Zune

zune

Discontinued in 2011, Zune was Microsofts ill fated attempt to compete with the iPod.

This product was probably DOA due to the DRM imposed my Microsoft. You could either buy an iPod that would play any mp3 you had, or a Zune player that would only play WMA files. Apparently you could convert an mp3 to a WMA file, but at the time I remember thinking it was a brain dead decision to require DRM on all files.

A Small World

asmallworld

For a time the early social networking site that billed itself as Myspace for Millionaires garnered attention and investment. The exclusivity and high society angle made it good fodder for newspaper and magazine articles:  W Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, and their long list of press articles.

But then Facebook came along.

While the company has pivoted several times it now has a bit of a sordid history of lawsuits.

YouTube ???

YouTube_logo_2013.svg

As an special bonus, while researching the Zune failure, I found this 2009 Time Magazine article declaring the 10 worst failures in tech including YouTube.

Failure to Launch – YouTube

In November 2006, Google (GOOG) bought YouTube for $1.65 billion. There is a fairly good chance that the search company will never get a return on that investment. 

Oops. I guess it isn’t a good idea to call the fight before it’s over.

There are others that should probably have made my list, but these are the ones that were most personal to me. Which tech disasters do you remember most vividly?

8 comments

  1. Your mention of webvan made me think of kozmo.com — ridiculous service but I miss it. Interestingly, offerings like Google Shopping Express (which until recently charged no delivery fee) and Postmates, among others, have shades of kozmo…

  2. Here are a few more candidates:

    CueCat
    MySpace
    PalmOS
    BeOS (and related hardware)
    Nexus Q
    AT&T’s video phone
    NGage
    magneto-optical drives for consumers
    Zombo.com (still trying to figure out what they do….)
    MS Bob
    Motorola Rokr
    Microsoft Spot

  3. From one of the best new things in tech (ProductHunt), comes a site that lets users down vote the biggest failures in tech (ProductGrunt).

    http://www.productgrunt.com/

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