RIP, AltaVista and Google Wave; we hardly knew ye

A bunch of Yahoo, Google, and Microsoft sites are now dead, Jim. Many more also expired in 2010. Who will be next?

Today a lot of people are mourning the possible loss of Delicious (or, as it used to be known,, following news that Yahoo is planning to sell or otherwise dispose of the popular Web bookmarking service five years after acquiring it.

Given the frequency with which companies acquired by Yahoo are shut down or otherwise disposed of, you'd think the folks at Yahoo were wearing a black cowl and carrying a scythe. Finding out you have a message from Carol Bartz must be like your doctor telling you he found a dark spot on your X-ray.

[ Is it any wonder Cringely crowned Mark Zuckerberg as Geek of the Year? Find out how he earned the coveted title. | For a humorous take on the tech industry's shenanigans, subscribe to Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter. ]

Read Write Web's Marshall Kirkpatrick is especially broken up about the possibility of Delicious' demise (do note that many websites have claimed Delicious was killed, but that's not true):

It's a loss not just for the many people who used Delicious to archive links of interest to them around the Web, it's a loss for the future -- for what could have been. Five years later, people are just beginning to appreciate the value of passively published user activity data made available for analysis, personalization, and more. That could have been you, Delicious ...

It was beautiful. And now it's gone.

The Library of Congress should have bought it, similar to the way it has now archived every tweet ever tweeted.

So much value. So unappreciated. So tragically lost. Where will we all gather next, where our bookmarks can be centralized for maximum network effect?

Me, I was never a Delicious aficionado. Really, all of the social bookmarking/aggregation sites -- Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon, and so on -- leave me cold. They're either inscrutable to use, or they tend to be dominated by too many obnoxious teenagers with too much time on their hands. Maybe Delicious was different -- but it may be too late, in any case.

On Yahoo's actual hit list: AltaVista, the first great search engine. (Remember when there used to be more than one search engine?) That one stings me more, but only in a nostalgic way -- kind of like when Leslie Nielsen died.

Yahoo has stuffed eight other services into a bag and dragged them down to the river: MyBlogLog, Yahoo Picks, Yahoo Buzz, Yahoo Bookmarks, Fire Eagle, Yahoo Events, Yahoo People, and Sideline. I'm sure they'll be missed by somebody, if only the employees who used to work at them.

There is apparently a big die-off going on right now on the InterWebs. Cnet has obits for 15 sites and services that took a dirt nap in 2010 -- and that was before the news about Yahoo broke. Some of the more notable disappearances: Purchased by Apple and presumably folded into the new Ping/iTunes social music mashup. I liked Lala; it was well designed and clever.

Google Wave. Mercy-killed by Google after less than two years, finally allowing us to stop asking the obvious question, "What the frak is Google Wave?" Interestingly, Facebook's new Messages scheme bears a passing resemblance to Wave; maybe we'll be reading its obituary in a year or two.

Google-411. A service I actually used, occasionally. How dare Google take away a free service that saved me $1.25 on a regular basis? I plan to write a strongly worded letter to Marissa Mayer (hopefully, she'll reward me with some cell phone pix).

Cuil (pronounced "cool"). A search engine that was supposed to out-Google Google. The problem: The results it returned were often laughably off-base. Turns out Cuil really rhymed with "tool."

Windows Live Spaces. Microsoft's attempt to get into the blog platform biz ended with predictable results. Here's a clue: Whenever Microsoft attaches the word "Live" to anything, expect it to be dead within the year.

This is the nature of technology and especially of the Web, which those of us caught up in the day-to-day tsunami of news tend to forget: Empires rise and fall with great alacrity. Remember when AOL was the future of all media? Yeah, I never believed that either, but it was convincing enough to fool Time Warner.

HuffPo tech editress Bianca Bosker has a long piece on the rise and not-quite-fall of Microsoft. At one time we thought the company was the Borg; turns out it was more like the Ferengi.

The lesson here is that the mighty do fall -- which folks like Facebook and Google would do well to remember.

Who do you think will be the next Web titan to go belly up? E-mail me:

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Internet-based applications and servicesYahooGoogleMicrosoftinternetsearch engines

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Robert X. Cringely

Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?