by Brad Moon | February 3, 2014 2:01 pm
Facebook (FB) was hardly the first social media network, and once it gained traction there were plenty of wannabes that piled on in attempt to take Facebook out.
Through it all, Facebook has not just survived, but thrived and FB stock has overcome a messy IPO to perform well. Facebook has been a brutal competitor, killing off dozens of would-be “next big things” in the social media space.
That’s one of the key reasons FB stock has done as well as it has. Mark Zuckerberg and company don’t just have big ideas, they’ve proven they can monetize those ideas (to the tune of $2.585 billion in quarterly revenue), they’ve got billions of users, and they’re ruthlessly competitive.
While social media networks like Twitter (TWTR) and Google’s (GOOG) Google+ are still here and more or less thriving, the road is scattered with less fortunate companies that were steamrolled or simply outlasted by the FB leviathan.
We’ve put together a list of 20 or so social media networks that met an early demise thanks to the Facebook effect, and a handful that are on the endangered list. Don’t be surprised to see some of the biggest names in the tech industry show up on our list of social media networks Facebook has outlived.
Walmart’s (WMT) The Hub launched in 2006. What teenager wouldn’t love to hang out online with other friends at a virtual Walmart? Especially when their parents received notifications if they were busted doing something against The Hub’s rules like posting an objectionable video. “Hubsters” stayed away in droves, and this experiment enjoyed a six week lifespan.
Bolt did social networking and video sharing starting in 1996, making it a Facebook contemporary, but that video sharing aspect of Bolt proved problematic — copyright violation resulted in bankruptcy and a year-long shut down of the site — and it never recovered. Bolt closed for good in 2008, no longer posing a threat to FB stock.
While Facebook wanted everyone to join (resulting in the site becoming the social media service your parents and grandparents use), VitalSkate decided to stay cool by focusing membership on skateboarders and extreme sports fans. But, it turns out, that demographic wasn’t enough to support a social media site. VitalSkate launched in 2006 and suffered its final sick wipeout in 2008.
Eons tried to do social media for the over 40 crowd, but FB won over those baby boomers. In this case, “Eons” means roughly six years, with the social media site started by a Monster.com co-founder and backed by health benefit provider Humana (HUM), crashing in 2012.
What happens when our neighbors to the North try to create their own social media site and attempt to solve that monetization issue by turning it into a paid membership/pay-for-post pyramid scheme? Capazoo! The social media site launched in 2006, quickly degenerated into a series of lawsuits and fraud and embezzlement accusations, went bankrupt, managed to attract investors for a 2007 relaunch then petered out sometime in 2008. Not every social media site can stage a comeback like FB stock did.
New Zealand startup iYomu managed to attract 100,000 members with its pitch as being social media for adults and the added incentive of a $1 million puzzle competition. It lasted less than one year before fading into black in 2008, yet another addition to the list of social media networks Facebook has outlived.
Pownce at least had some tech industry cred – due largely to the participation of Kevin Rose – and it reeked of industry insider exclusivity. That is, until it was opened to the public and bought by a blogging company, ultimately killing interest by 2008.
What happens when a champion of open source software designs a social media website? Mugshot, launched in 2006 by Red Hat (distributor of the open source Linux PC operating system) answer that question. Neat idea, but Facebook was already free, and it turned out social media types didn’t want to mess around with code. Being open source, Mugshot took a while to die (when Red Hat abandoned the project, others took up the cause), but by 2012 it was history.
Akoha launched in 2007 with the idea to “create a new type of community to highlight fun, real-world activities that would help people explore and enjoy life to the fullest.” But Akoha failed to translate these fun missions to revenue the way FB stock has, and the social media service shut down in 2011.
Google Buzz was a 2010 attempt to provide Gmail users with social a social networking service to take on Facebook and Twitter. Unfortunately for Google, the primary buzz generated by this FB stock competitor was around lax user privacy (ultimately resulting in a class action lawsuit against the company) and the service only lasted until 2011.
Sprouter was another Canadian startup, this one determined to be the social media service for entrepreneurs. It never found its groove and seemed to flail between whether it was a Twitter clone (for business types) or a Facebook clone (for business types) and was facing closure when Canadian newpaper conglomerate Postmedia (PNC) snapped it up in 2011, folding the service into what is now essentially a newspaper column.
Launched in 2004, Windows Live Spaces was Microsoft’s (MSFT) attempt at taking on upstarts like Facebook with social networking, blogging and digital sharing. Microsoft announced the site’s end in 2010, with Windows Live Spaces closing down for good in 2011, just as FB stock was preparing its debut.
Was Google Wave aimed at FB, or was it more of a shot at Twitter? Maybe it was Google’s take on instant messaging? Whatever Google Wave was meant to be, the social media service for collaborators was announced in 2009, abandoned in 2010 and finally killed in 2012.
Launched in 2007, Gowalla was an early location-based social media network that encouraged users to check in from locations using their smartphones. Sounds like a good idea in an increasingly mobile world. So good that Facebook bought the company in 2011 for $3 million in FB stock.
Even the mighty Apple (AAPL) has not been immune to the Facebook effect. Leveraging its hugely popular iTunes music service, Ping was launched in 2010 as a music-oriented social media and recommendation service. Ping lasted until 2012, when Apple opted for TWTR and FB integration instead.
ConnectU may just be the first of the social media services Facebook has killed — it just took a while. The infamous Winklevoss twins’ original social networking service launched at Harvard in 2004; they have claimed in lawsuits it formed the basis of Facebook. If you want the whole sordid story, watch The Social Network. ConnectU isn’t officially dead, but you can’t exactly use it either, making it the unofficial first victim.
As for the biggest victim…
Yahoo (YHOO) 360 launched in 2005 and promised to offer users a wide range of Yahoo services under a single account, letting members share photos, their blogs and lists. It was shut down in 2009, although Yahoo 360 Plus Vietnam lives on, giving YHOO … bragging rights?
Then there was Yahoo Kickstart — launched in 2007, shut down in 2008. This one targeted both FB’s old stomping grounds (college students) and LinkedIn’s (LNKD) turf with recent grads and employers, offering cash prizes to colleges that signed up the most alumni. Even bribery couldn’t prevent Yahoo Kickstart from quickly joining the ranks of social media networks Facebook has outlived.
Yahoo Mash also made an appearance. Mash-up your Yahoo web services on a single social media site and share the result with friends — who can then make their own edits. Launched in 2007, shuttered in 2008.
The concept of Yahoo Buzz was similar to other news aggregation websites and also competed with Facebook’s news feed for sharing news. Launched in 2008, Yahoo Buzz was closed in 2011 to “help us focus on our core strengths and new innovations.” In other words, Yahoo decided to stop banging its heads against the FB wall.
MySpace (launched in 2003) is often credited as being the original social media network. It was certainly the go-to website for musicians, but by 2008, it had been overtaken by FB and began a rapid decline as users bailed. It seemed doomed, but was sold for $35 million in 2011 by investors including singer Justin Timberlake — if they’d waited a few months, they could have invested in 900,000 or so shares of FB stock instead. MySpace now seems to be combining personal blogging with Pandora (P)-esque Internet radio streaming.
Xanga launched in 1998 and from its roots as a website where users were encouraged to share reviews of movies, books and music, grew into a blogging platform. The social media service relaunched in 2013 as Xanga 2.0, a crowd-funded $48-per-year blogging service.
Diaspora was launched in 2010 as something of an anti-Facebook, a social media service that’s free and distributed — no ownership means no worries about advertising polluting the website. Privacy is also a big deal for Diaspora users with the governing Diaspora Foundation stating: ”In Diaspora you own your data. You do not sign over any rights to a corporation or other interest who could use it.” FB stock has shown no indication that Diaspora’s 200,000 or so users represent any sort of a threat.
Malaysian-based Friendster (launched in 2002) once boasted 100 million users — mostly in southeast Asia. Demolished by FB, it shut down in 2011 but re-opened as a social gaming site, hoping to leverage the love of casual games Facebook users have shown to attract a new wave of members.
Which of these companies will be the next to go? You could place your bets … or you could just use that money to buy FB stock, instead.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.
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