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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Orkut, we hardly knew you: 10 tech products we lost in 2014

Every year, the tech industry brings us unexpected surprises and long-predicted changes, and among those ups and downs are usually a few endings to some of our favorite technology products.

Perhaps the biggest ending of the year, and maybe even the decade, was Microsoft's decision to end support for Windows XP. The move effectively left millions of users around the planet wondering whether they should fend for themselves, find an alternative or surrender and begin using Windows 8.1.
Similarly, although slightly less impactful, Google decided to shut down an entire social network when it opted to end the long run of Orkut.
The company's original social-networking experiment failed to find legs in the U.S. but somehow managed to garner a large following in Brazil. But with Google+ on the menu, the lingering shadow of Orkut was apparently too much of a reminder of past failures to be allowed to live on, and now it's history.
But those weren't the only sad tech endings of 2014. We've gathered together the year's most notable closures so you can mourn a bit more efficiently and light a digital flame in homage to some of the most beloved tech products and services that are no longer with us.

iPod Classic





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Along with the announcement of the Apple Watch and new iPhones, Apple also quietly retired the iPod Classic. In some ways, the timing of the move was historically appropriate. As the Apple Watch ushers in a new kind of tactile interface with its Digital Crown, reminiscent of the original iPod click wheel and even the iPod Classic's touchpad wheel, the company's interface design wheels are, literally, spinning in a new direction.
Now that the iPod touch — which can be difficult to differentiate from an older iPhone — is officially the standard-bearer for Apple's music player category, we can lament the passing of the form factor that saved Apple from ruin so many years ago.

Facebook Poke App

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The word in some Silicon Valley circles is: if Facebook can't acquire you, it will copy you. That oft-mentioned approach appears obvious if you look at several recent Facebook app launches, most notably Poke. Viewed by some as an attempt to copy Snapchat, Facebook's ephemeral message, photo and video app seemed promising at first but was ultimately ditched by the social network.
Meanwhile, Snapchat, which reportedly rebuffed a $3 billion offer from Facebook, just landed a new investment that values the company at around $10 billion.

MSN Messenger




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Microsoft's acquisition of Skype back in 2011 had a number of ripple effects for the company's users, one of which was the eventual shuttering of Windows Live Messenger, better known as MSN Messenger.
Although the company announced its intentions back in 2012, the old messaging service lingered on in China until 2014, when Microsoft put the final nail in the app's coffin. For old-school users of MSN Messenger, the end of the app will likely be accompanied by numerous memories of intimate late-night chats and shared moments that, in a weird way, may inspire a bit of nostalgia for the outdated software.

Orkut

Google's first major social-networking experiment, Orkut, failed to find its footing in the U.S., but it unexpectedly caught on in Brazil. Back in 2010, Orkut was more popular than Facebook in the country, until Mark Zuckerberg's social networking behemoth added Brazil to its list of conquests in 2011.
Despite Orkut's success in a big market, Google decided to shut the social network down as it attempted to boost the fortunes of its other social networking play, Google+. However, with the departure of Google+ chief Vic Gundotra, and the service's numbers still lagging far behind Facebook's, it could be just a matter of time before Google+ suffers the same fate as Orkut.

Xbox Entertainment Studios



Not long after rumors that Microsoft's Xbox Entertainment Studios was planning on creating original programming (mirroring recent moves by Netflix and Amazon), Microsoft unceremoniously shut down the unit as part of an overall plan to lay off roughly 18,000 workers. The move struck some as curious considering the cache Xbox and its network enjoys with gamers and the hiring of former CBS president Nancy Tellum back in 2012 to lead the unit's entertainment efforts.

But with the ascension of newly minted CEO Satya Nadella to the top position, the change in direction for Xbox Entertainment Studios may be just one of many Microsoft changes in the works in the coming year.

Windows XP

Bill Gates Unveiling Windows Xp

Microsoft's decision to end support for Windows XP may have been met by excitement by early adopters loyal to the brand and looking to trade up to a shiny new interface experience in Windows 8.1, but for many others, the change is still a nonstarter.
In fact, Chinese officials used the change as an opportunity to officially ban Windows 8 in the country as it works to launch its own operating system to compete with the likes of Microsoft, Google's Android and Apple OS X

Justin.tv

If you weren't using Justin.tv, you probably don't know that the site spawned entire subnetworks of illegal content streams. There were 24-hour Star Trek channels, bootleg History Channel streams and, of course, scores of movie streams showing classic and current movies to dedicated viewerships. The DMCA takedown notices flew fast and furious on Justin.tv, but illegal broadcasters just as quickly posted new streams for their loyal audiences.
But as the site grew, originally born of a gimmicky stunt performed years ago by Justin Kan who wore a camera strapped to his head for months, an offshoot of the site, Twitch, gradually became a favorite with gamers and generally became more popular than its parent site. When Twitch was acquired by Amazon a few months after Justin.tv announced an end to the main site, the brief furor over all those lost video archives on Justin.tv seemed to be ancient history.

Macworld Magazine


Macworld, that venerable print publication that has covered all things Apple for decades, finally reached the end of its run in September. Although the publisher of the magazine, IDG, will keep the website alive, the print edition will disappear, along with a large number of editorial staff.
Macworld editorial director Jason Snell, a 17-year veteran with the publication, and a high-profile voice on various tech podcasts, will also leave the company. The news was particularly galling forMacworld fans as it came just after the September 9 Apple event that introduced the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and the Apple Watch.

Nokia X


Along with a new CEO in Satya Nadella have come a range of rapid changes for Microsoft. One of the biggest this year was the news that Microsoft had decided to bring an end to its Android-based Nokia X line of mobile phones.In a company-wide memo that heralded the news of massive layoffs at the company, Nadella wrote, "we plan to shift select Nokia X product designs to become Lumia products running Windows."
According to Nadella, the move was designed, in part, to concentrate the company's efforts more on producing more affordable mobile phones and focus more on Windows Universal apps.

Flappy Bird


The brief history of the mobile game known as Flappy Bird was something of a case study in how virality and the success comes with it are not always as desirable as they may seem. Its Vietnam-based creator, Dong Nguyen, was overwhelmed by the popularity of the game and the pressure that came along with its success, a situation that eventually led to him pulling the game. In February, Nguyen took to Twitter to write, "I am sorry 'Flappy Bird' users, 22 hours from now, I will take 'Flappy Bird' down. I cannot take this anymore."
Of course, a number of imitators immediately cropped up, but none of the clones of the original Flappy Bird game have managed to stir up the same kind of interest. Nguyen later backtracked on his position and released Flappy Bird Family for Android on the Amazon app store, but the rise and rapid self-destruction of one of the most popular mobile games in recent memory remains the game's biggest story.

Madhav Biju

Author & Editor

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