The Next Big Flop
The great thing about the Internet is that the cost of getting a new startup off the ground is usually much less than it would be in the physical world. All you need is an idea, a $10 domain name and some programmers to help you design the site. But the downside is that today there is even more competition to get noticed, and often there can be an excessive amount of hype when you finally do.
Back in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, several Internet companies, like Geocities, were severely overvalued by investors and ultimately flopped, causing many to lose their jobs. Now some publications, including our sister site, TheStreet.com, have begun to speculate that we may be experiencing a second dot-com bubble, as investors are now valuing new websites like Groupon to be worth as much as $6 billion and Facebook to be worth $50 billion or more. But if the past tells us anything, it’s that sites like these may be hugely popular one day and fade away the next.
We’ve rounded up 10 websites that went from being the next big thing to either shutting down or having bleak futures ahead, and look at the reasons behind their demise.
Photo Credit: garryknight
For a few glorious weeks last year, Chatroulette was one of the most talked about sites on the Web, thanks to a combination of an innovative idea and a healthy dose of controversy. Chatroulette allowed users to video chat with random people around the world, with the goal of providing yet another tool to help people connect with one another. But the site was also flooded with a substantial amount of nudity from those who preferred to use the site to strip rather than chat. This fact only helped the site to become even become more popular as publications and TV shows talked about the nudity problem, generating even more buzz.
Unfortunately, the more that the developers behind Chatroulette tried to clean up the site’s image and protect against nudity, the less popular it became. According to Quantcast, which tracks online traffic, the site’s traffic went from a peak of 400,000 unique users a month in April 2010 to approximately 68,000 monthly users by the end of the year.
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Digg launched back in 2004, and gradually grew from a niche site for sharing news stories to a powerhouse for finding and promoting the most important articles of the day. But in August 2010, the site launched a massive redesign that ultimately proved unpopular with many users. This, combined with the rise of competing social news sites like Reddit, has chipped away at Digg’s popularity.
Digg’s traffic plummeted from nearly 16 million users a month in August 2010 to 6 million the next month, and according to Quantcast, it has since hovered around the 8 million mark, which is still half of what it once was.
Photo Credit: Digg.com
For all the buzz and expectation surrounding Facebook’s popularity and future growth, some are quick to point out the comparison to MySpace, another social networking site, which was once the next big thing, but is now on a long, slow decline. Since 2007, the number of monthly users visiting the site has dropped from 87 million to about 35 million, according to Quantcast. As a result, the site recently was forced to lay off 47% of its staff and its ad revenue is expected to decline by about half in the next two years as well.
Photo Credit: MySpace.com
Friendster was one of the first social networking sites, launched in 2002 long before anyone had ever heard the words Facebook or MySpace. Unfortunately, within two years, these and other social networking sites popped up and grew to overshadow Friendster. The site still boasts some 50 million users today, but according to Alexa, another site that tracks web traffic, Friendster has gone from one of the 50 most popular sites to number 982 in just a couple years’ time. Moreover, 36% of the people who visit the site only look at one page, meaning they are not engaged with the site and probably did not intend to visit it in the first place.
Photo Credit: Gian Cayetano
When Google launched Buzz in early 2010, the goal was to create a site that could compete with social networks like Twitter by allowing Gmail users a quick and easy way to share status updates, photos and news stories with their friends. But there was one problem: For all the hype surrounding its release, few people actually used it. One report three months later found that 90% of the posts on Buzz were automated, meaning they came from other accounts like Twitter that were connected to Buzz, rather than being posted to Buzz specifically. Nearly one year after its launch, Buzz still exists, but unless Google makes a change to the site’s formula, very few people may notice when the site celebrates its next anniversary.
Photo Credit: cot
Like many publishing companies, Conde Nast has tried hard to find its footing on the Internet, but one of its early attempts to do so ultimately proved to be a failure. In 2007, the company launched Flip.com, a social networking site geared toward teenage girls, which allowed users to post pictures and videos and share journal entries with one another. The site struggled to gain traction and one year later, Conde Nast shut it down. Today if you type in Flip.com, you are automatically re-directed to the website for Teen Vogue.
Photo Credit: Global X
Like Chatroulette, this site garnered its fair share of controversy. Juicy Campus launched in 2007 and prompted college students to post anonymous gossip and rumors about universities around the country. This led to countless acts of slander between students and colleges, as well as a lawsuit, but ultimately this wasn’t what did the site in. Juicy Campus simply didn’t have enough funding to keep up its operation and in 2009, the site shut down for good.
Photo Credit: Simon Summerfield Jolly
12Seconds.tv was supposed to be the next big thing for video websites, effectively serving as a way for users to share short video messages with friends much in the same way that people share short text updates on Twitter. But in October the site shut down, just a year and a half after it launched, having failed to attract a significant audience or raise enough money to pay for the costs of running it.
Photo Credit: 12seconds.tv
Limewire launched in the early 2000s and was one of several hugely popular file-sharing sites that allowed users to download and share everything from music to software without paying for it. But one by one, each of these sites was either sued, shut down or forced to adopt a pay model to comply with the law (or a combination of all three). Limewire was one of the last to stick it out, but in October the site was finally shut down for good by the federal courts, proving that for some sites, the formula behind your success will inevitably be the reason for your downfall.
Photo Credit: hankenstein
AltaVista was one of the leading search engines in the ‘90s and continued to enjoy some modest success in the 2000s, but was ultimately outflanked by newer search engines like Google and Bing. In three years alone, its traffic dropped from about 7 million to less than 1 million, according to Quantcast estimates. Last month, rumors began to circulate that Yahoo, which currently owns AltaVista, would shut the site down.
Photo Credit: Altavista.com
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