It's getting crowded in here.
Last week we told you about Mastodon, a new social media platform that threatens to steal some of Twitter’s most diehard users.
Although Mastodon is tiny compared to Twitter’s 320 million-strong base, it is practically invincible because its creator, Eugen Rochko, has designed it to be a decentralised platform.
Twitter meanwhile is totally centralised and will live or die by the whim of its investors. As long the platform struggles to attract any new users, death is very much an option.
It got us thinking about the social networks that, despite the hype, never made it and were quietly “shuttered” – the tech world’s euphemism for “going to the big co-working space in the sky”.
How many of these do you remember?
Ah, Google Buzz. Proof that no matter how much money you have, you still can’t insist people give a toss about your product.
It followed hot on the heels of another failure, Google Wave (2009-10), and was designed to be a social network in your inbox.
Well, the buzz didn’t last very long and Google discontinued it in December 2011.
Google solved the problems of Buzz with its successor Google Plus: if you can’t get people to sign up to your stupid website, sign them up whether they like it or not.
The original and the best… is a phrase that half-applies to Friendster.
Founded a year before MySpace and two years before Facebook, I guess you could say Friendster was ahead of its time. Or it was just a bit rubbish.
After only one year Google offered to buy the platform for $30m, an offer the management declined, shortly before buying tickets for the maiden voyage of the Titanic.
The site changed into a gaming platform in 2010, before dying without anyone noticing in 2015.
Diaspora was touted as the “Facebook killer“, due partly to its decentralised and open source nature. It had no single owner and none of the creepy use of your private data that Facebook trades in.
The hype was real and the four young postgrads who founded it managed to raise $200,000 to develop the platform.
But its launch in 2010 was a “public disaster” from which the network never recovered.
Sadly the same year an actual death happened – one of the team was found dead and, according to Motherboard, “when he died, the project died.”
Heard of Vessel? Nope, didn’t think so.
It was a rival to YouTube that tried very hard to woo some of the biggest YouTubers to its platform.
In the end it couldn’t convince either content creators or viewers to move over and “joined” (another tech euphemism for going to meet your maker) Verizon after just a year.
Some social networks are still technically active but have all the life of a zombie, quietly stalking the graveyard of their peers, waiting for the merciful release of death.
Ello was launched in 2014 and appealed to people like this:
Enough said. It was trying too hard to be cool with a dreadful design that made it look like a website straight out of 1997.
It set itself up as an organic ad-free alternative to Facebook (“You are not a product” was its slogan); a noble approach rather undermined by it taking a huge wad of cash from a venture firm.
It’s since “pivoted” (yet another tech euphemism for being taken out the back and shot in the base of the skull) to being a sort of Pinterest for creatives thing… sort of… I guess?
Yes, Yo still exists, but for the same reason you still haven’t taken out the recycling this week.
The social app caused a storm in 2014 by basically being about as useful as a chocolate fireguard. Users could tap a button to send an annoying “yo” sound to someone they presumably didn’t like. Wikipedia tells me that more than 100 million Yo’s have been sent on the platform.
Speaking of big numbers, $2.5m was how much cash Yo managed to squeeze out of some investors.
A small number is $0: how much those investors have presumably made back.
And finally, how could we not mention the biggest zombie of them all?
MySpace was founded in 2003, literally, according to The Guardian, to copy Friendster. “[The founders] looked at Friendster and said: ‘Wow, people are spending insane amounts of time on this site. We should copy it.'”
In a surprising display of grandad cool, MySpace was bought by Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp, but the ownership turned out to be a chain around the platform’s neck. The site’s complexity overwhelmed its owners and MySpace – once the most visited website in the world – went into steep decline.
It was spotted trying to buy Spotify in 2009, who managed to say “no thanks” between fits of laughter.
And in 2016 Myspace was bought by Time Magazine… because nobody wants to die alone.
Adam Westbrook is Associate Editor of The Memo’s Creative section. He’s an independent video artist, filmmaker, and occasional lecturer in journalism and production.