They came, they caused a stir, but they failed to make a long-lasting impression. Soon, their flare perished.
Such is the tragic story of social networking platforms and apps that launched with throbbing vigour and promise, only to crumble few years (some even months) later.
Myspace, 2go, Yahoo! Buzz, Google+ and more recently Saharah are some of the notable platforms whose hype was unsustainable. According to analysts, there are mainly three reasons for the precipitous decline of these sites.
First is the complacency of their designers. They became content with what they had achieved and stopped innovating in order to retain their apps’ blockbuster status.
Second is the inability to adapt to the cutthroat dynamics of communication needs of users. Their decline thus occasioned the rise of other apps that were able to incorporate more recent technology into their design and usage.
Third, and perhaps most vicious, is the emergence of better, flexible more interactive apps such as Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Twitter, which bullied them out of the networking scene.
Google’s invincibility as a tech giant is not in question. The multinational’s wide-ranging Internet-based products have each been immensely successful, earning the firm billions of dollars in revenue annually.
But clearly, Google+, released in 2011 as the tech firm’s flagship social networking site, has been far from a popular brand. Formed to replace the failed Google Buzz, Google+ did not live to its expectations.
Compared to Facebook’s 2 billion monthly users, Google+, with an implausible 111 million users (most of whom are inactive) is evidently losing in the obviously one-sided battle.
“MySpace was like a big party, and then the party moved on,” said Michael J. Wolf, the CEO of Activate Inc, once told the New York Times.
Chris DeWolfe, who co-founded MySpace, has in the past admitted that the drive for revenue at the expense of growth sealed the fate of the initially high-flying platform.
As though the unrealistic monetary ambitions was not damaging enough, the platform also became overly concerned with music and celebrities, causing disenchantment among more ‘ordinary’ users.
In January 2011, the site laid off 500 of its employees, or half of their workforce due to massive loss of users, and revenue. The site would never make a turnaround.
Many people hardly remember 2go today. Its escalation in the late 2000s was as steep as its downfall at the turn of the decade.
From the outset, a poor chat interface anchored the South African-made app firmly on the highway to its eventual collapse. For those who interacted with the app, many will admit that it was virtually impossible to track the flow of a chat. This is precisely where the designers of the platform got their bet astonishingly wrong.
Then there was the agony of distorted usernames among the app’s users. Who would care to chat, or even remember, a user with such an absurd username as Stella349 or Kevin273?
But a lack of media access is perhaps what put the app’s head on the pillory. The essence of social media, as social media analysts argue, is to share various media content with one’s friends and followers.
“The currency of social media is the share,” writes Courtney Seiter, a specialist in social media, diversity and workplace culture at Buffer.
People the world over fancy sharing their photos, news content and even hilarious videos. And this is the front where 2go flopped almost irredeemably.
Facebook, on the other hand, seized the gap, making it possible for its users to share media content in a variety of formats including live videos, videos, links, photos, Graphics Interchange Format (GIFs) content, text and audio content with much ease.
Consequently, in 2016, Facebook accounted for 57 per cent of all social content shared on social networks, according to Statista, a leading German statistics firm on the Internet.
Launched in October 2000, Yahoo! Buzz was a community-based news article website that combined the features of social bookmarking and syndication through a user interface. Users published their own news stories and linked them to others on the platform to drive traffic.
In February 2010, the designers of Yahoo Buzz were sent into panic mode when in February 2010, Google launched their Google Buzz, which was in direct antagonism with their product.
While it is common practice in business to seek feedback from clients, Yahoo seemed to fall over themselves in reminding their customers that they had been the pioneers of the social game, and how Yahoo all in an attempt to keep them in their fold.
Sarahah maybe the latest social media platform to follow this path. If other sites flopped, then Sarahah has been a flash in the pan.
The app had risen with such stunning hoopla that no one in their remotest fancy would have foreseen a drop as dramatic as this upswing.
Built by Saudi programmer Zain al-Abidin Tawfiq, the fundamental functionality of Sarahah is anonymity, where users send “honest” reviews and feedback to other people, without the recipient of the message identifying the user.
While its secrecy feature was its strength, it would soon become a chink in its armour as mischievous users soon exploited this facelessness to harass, bully and spread hate to their unsuspecting victims.
Whereas Sarahah hasn’t closed shop yet, few people, if any, use it anymore.
For local and regional technology firms that hope to make a long-lasting imprint on the tech scene, they must be acutely aware of the demands of the industry.
Complacency, failure to adapt to the dynamics of the industry, lack of consumer focus, emphasis on money at the expense of growth and breach of users’ privacy are some of the pitfalls that these businesses must avoid.