Death comes for us all, even once-great Silicon Valley giants. Here are the apps, startups, devices, and sites that drifted off into the great beyond in 2019.
Every year, we see favorite apps, buzz-worthy startups, and ideas that never quite got off the ground meet their demise and quietly exit stage left. We had advance warning of some of the 2019 shutdowns-pour one out for Google+, Inbox, and Flickr’s hefty scoop of free storage-but a number of other companies and products said farewell in 2019. Let’s take a look back.
Google Chromecast Audio: First released in September 2015, Chromecast Audio plugged into your speaker or sound system’s aux input via a 3.5mm audio jack to make it wireless. But with the release of more and more wireless speakers, the need for Chromecast Audio diminished and Google discontinued it in January.
Norton Core: The Norton Core was a stylish router packed with security and parental control features to protect every device in your home, from PC to smart fridge. But good looks couldn’t save this gadget; Symantec confirmed earlier this year that it was “discontinuing the hardware production of Norton Core.”
Westworld Mobile Game: In 2018, Bethesda Softworks sued Warner Bros. Interactive and Behaviour Interactive, arguing that its Westworld mobile game ripped off Fallout Shelter. The two sides settled later that year in a deal that required the end of the Westworld game, which disappeared in March.
Wii Shop: With customers shifting to the Nintendo eShop on Switch and 3DS, the Nintendo Wii Shop, which dated back to 2006, said its farewell on Jan. 30.
Facebook Moments: This standalone service grouped images on your phone based on when they were taken and, using facial-recognition software, which friends were in them. You could then tell the app to sync those pictures with specific friends, and hoped they did the same. Not enough people used Facebook Moments, however, and it was shut down.
Razer Game Store: Gaming hardware maker Razer tried its hand at software in 2018 with the Razer Game Store, which offered discounts on games that buyers then accessed on Steam, Uplay, and Origin. But as Slashgear points out, the store was redundant and deals not particularly noteworthy as time went on. Razer wised up and shut down the store.
Samsung Blu-ray Players: Samsung confirmed in Feburary that it would no longer release new Blu-ray or 4K Blu-ray player models in the US. No reason was provided, but as Mashable notes, Samsung devices did not support Dolby Vision, not to mention decreased consumer interest in purchasing physical DVDs.
Apple AirPower: Apple announced AirPower in the fall of 2017 alongside the iPhone X. “The new Apple-designed AirPower mat, coming in 2018, can charge iPhone, Apple Watch and AirPods simultaneously,” the company said at the time. But after several delays, Apple in March “concluded AirPower will not achieve our high standards and… cancelled the project.”
Intel Compute Card: Intel announced Compute Cards in 2017 as a way to tap into the smart devices market. Small and thin, the products contained most elements of a full computer-including the CPU, memory, storage and wireless connectivity-for $150 to $500. But while “we continue to believe modular computing is a market where there are many opportunities for innovation,” Intel decided in February not to develop new Compute Card products moving forward.
Adobe Shockwave: Not a particularly surprising move, but as of April 9, Adobe discontinued Shockwave and pulled the Shockwave player for Windows.
Google Fiber in Louisville, Kentucky: In 2010, cities around the country jockeyed to become the first Google Fiber city, with Kansas City emerging victorious. Over the years, Google has brought its gigabit internet service to a number of US cities, but providing super-fast fiber internet service isn’t cheap, and rivals moved quickly to top the search giant’s offering. Google Fiber is still kicking, but not in Louisville, where Googe Fiber shut down in April due to buildout difficulties, among other challenges.
Microsoft EBook Store: Microsoft removed the books category from the Microsoft Store in April and axed the ability to read purchased ebooks in July.
Stringify: After a 2017 acquisition by Comcast, Stringify-which allowed for automated tasks-annnounced plans to shut down. “As our focus increasingly shifts to developing new connected-home experiences at Comcast, we made a strategic decision to step back from developing the app,” Stringify said in an email to users.
BBM Consumer: BlackBerry Messenger shut down for good on May 31, and with it a part of the history of early mobile messaging. Emtek, the Indonesian company that partnered with BlackBerry in 2016, cited the difficulty of attracting new users. “We poured our hearts into making this a reality, and we are proud of what we have built to date,” Emtek said. “The technology industry however, is very fluid, and in spite of our substantial efforts, users have moved on to other platforms, while new users proved difficult to sign on.”
Texture: Billed as the “Netflix for magazines,” Texture was acquired by Apple in 2016. But when Cupertino launched its own subscription news service, Apple News+, it meant the end for the standalone Texture app.
Custom Google Pixel Cases: Another thing that died at I/O? The My Case program, which printed your own design on Google Pixel phone cases. Instead, all Pixel phones now have the option of a knitted fabric case in varying colors.
Amazon Restaurants: Amazon launched its restaurant delivery service in 2015 for Amazon Prime members starting in Seattle. The service then expanded to more than 20 cities across the country including New York, San Francisco, and Washington D.C., as well as overseas. But last year, the company shut down Amazon Restaurants in the UK following reports that it was also slashing jobs at the service’s US division. This year, it shut down for good.
Google-Branded Tablets: Google confirmed this summer that it would no longer produce standalone tablets (like the Nexus 7, pictured) and would instead focus on notebooks. “Hey, it’s true…Google’s HARDWARE team will be solely focused on building laptops moving forward, but make no mistake, Android & Chrome OS teams are 100 percent committed for the long-run on working with our partners on tablets for all segments of the market (consumer, enterprise, edu),” Google’s head of devices, Rick Osterloh, said at the time.
Spotify Artist Upload Program: For about a year, Spotify tested a feature that let independent artists upload their music directly to Spotify. But in a bid not to anger the music labels and distributors with which it works, however, Spotify announced it would end the program. “Over the past year, we’ve vastly improved our work with distribution partners to ensure metadata quality, protect artists from infringement, provide their users with instant access to Spotify for Artists, and more,” it said.
Microsoft Internet Games: Redmond in July announced that those still using Windows XP, Windows ME, and Windows 7 would soon no longer be able to fire up a few classic games available on the OSes: Backgammon, Checkers, Spades, Hearts, Reversi, and MSN Go. “The time has come for us, along with our hardware and software partners, to invest our resources towards more recent technologies so that we can continue to deliver great new experiences,” Microsoft said at the time. Support for Windows XP and ME ended on July 31, while Windows 7 users have until Jan. 22, 2020 to get in a few more games.
Dessert-Themed Versions of Android: With the launch of every major new version of Android, we got a dessert-themed name to accompany the version number, from Android Cupcake to Android Pie. However, for Android Q there is no tasty treat naming convention anymore; Google took a page from Microsoft, and named its newest mobile OS Android 10.
Facebook Group Stories: Facebook has tried to make Stories happen to no avail, and this year it gave up on Group Stories, which let admins and page owners add Stories that disappeared after 24 hours, a la Snapchat.
Jeremy Renner’s app: Some of you might not know who Jeremy Renner is, but even if you do, you might not be aware that the actor had an app dedicated entirely to himself. Well, he did, and it was shut down this year, but not because no one cared. In fact, things got a little too active over on the old JR app, where “fans” figured out how to impersonate Renner and post inappropriate content in his name. Renner wasn’t having it and killed the app altogether.
MoviePass: Surprising no one, MoviePass couldn’t hack it. The company had a turbulent 2018 and 2019 before it shut down on Sept. 14. The idea was a great one-pay a flat fee to see as many movies as you could handle in a month. It sounded too good to be true, and it was. After changing its service plans, blacking out popular movies, and trying a few other schemes in a bid to recoup losses, MoviePass ran out of money.
YouTube Messages: Two years ago, Google added direct messages to YouTube. But discourse in YouTube DMs were apparently about as high-brow as the site’s comments section, so YouTube “decided to discontinue YouTube’s native direct messaging feature while we focus on improving public conversations.”
Dyson’s Electric Car: Sir James Dyson says his company’s automotive team developed “a fantastic car,” but it simply wasn’t commercially viable, so Dyson shut down the program.
Google Clips: Google Clips used AI to automatically capture the things around you, but in practice, this small camera felt like a bad robotic event photographer, and Google canned it this year.
Intel Kaby Lake-G processors: Intel quietly discontinued its Kaby Lake-G processors, which were born from a rare team-up between the chip maker and rival AMD. Intel indicated to PCMag that it was phasing out the Kaby Lake-G line in favor of its 10th generation Ice Lake Intel Core processors. Shipments will officially end on July 31, 2020.
Kindle Matchbook: Kindle Matchbook allowed authors to offer a Kindle version of their work at a greatly reduced price (or even for free) to customers who purchased a print edition. Amazon did not elaborate on why Matchbook shut down, but the program ended on Oct. 31.
Yahoo Groups: Another once-popular service that has declined in the social-networking era, Yahoo Groups is being shut down by parent company Verizon. Content will be deleted, and Yahoo Groups will live on only as an email list people can use to message each other. After archivists complained about not having enough time to download content, Verizon pushed the deletion date from Dec. 15 to Jan. 31, so there’s still time to recover your old-school chats.
Amazon Free Samples: Earlier this year, Amazon started using machine learning to predict what shoppers might want in the future and send them free samples of those goods. Free stuff is cool, but the program was a litle creepy for some, and Amazon decided to retire it.
Cortana App: Microsoft announced last month that it’ll pull the Cortana app from the App Store and Google Play on January 31, 2020. Not all countries will lose Cortana immediately, however. The digital assistant tried competing with Siri on iOS and Google Assistant on Android, but Cortana failed to gain traction. Now, it’ll transition to a built-in feature on Microsoft’s other products.
Google Cloud Print: This service let you print items to remote devices; send a document to your office printer on your commute, for example, or print something on your home printer while at work. But it will no longer be available come Dec. 31. Google recommends embracing native printing (CUPS); “When you add a printer, it automatically appears in your users’ list of printers and they can start printing without any further setup,” it says.
Insignia Connect: A number of big box stores sell their own versions of popular electronics, and Best Buy offered Insignia smart home devices, until this year. Sorry, no more WiFi Smart Plug and Smart Plug with metering, WiFi Smart Light Switch, Wi-Fi Camera, or WiFi Convertible Freezer/Fridge.
Juno App: Available in New York City, Juno was marketed as a driver-friendly alternative to Uber and Lyft, but it couldn’t compete amid what it called burdensome city regulations.
Netflix on Old-School Media Streamers: As of Dec. 1, Netflix will no longer stream to some of the oldest Roku devices or Samsung and Vizio TVs due to Microsoft’s PlayReady DRM. The technology protects streams against piracy. However, the oldest Roku devices (Roku SD, Roku HD, Roku HD-XR, Roku XD, and Roku XDS) and some old Samsung and Vizio TVs aren’t capable of using it. Instead, they rely on Windows Media DRM, which Netflix continued to support until now.
Video Game Rentals and Purchases Via Redbox: For those who relied on Redbox kiosks for video game rentals, the company confirmed to The Verge that it has ended video game rentals and will no longer sell games by year’s end to focus on movies.
Steam Controller: In a bid to get rid of its Steam Controller stock, Valve sold it at a 90 percent discount during the Steam Autumn Sale. Unfortunately, it sold too many of them, and had to issue refunds to the unlucky latecomers. Valve is no longer producing the Steam Controller so that’s all she wrote.
Originally published at https://www.pcmag.com on December 23, 2019.