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A Walk Through the App Graveyard

By Nick Epson on September 16, 2021

Some say that after an app leaves this world, it enters another dimension of the web where they wander in search of their old servers. Others say some apps never truly die – they just disappear from view and wait until they can haunt the world of the living and take their revenge.

But the reality is, for most apps that failed, the only thing that remains are bits of code in repositories or hard drives that eventually work their way to the back of some drawer, never to be seen again. When most apps die, there’s very little chance that they’ll resurrect – with that said, it does occasionally happen. Throughout the following, we’re going to stroll through the app graveyard and talk a little about why some apps are no longer with us.

In loving memory of…

Unlike the copious ways that living organisms can meet their doom, apps usually only die for a handful of reasons and it usually boils down to the fact that they aren’t being used or they’re absorbed into something bigger and (hopefully) better. For example, Vine started a trend of short, user-generated content and commanded a sizable audience but they eventually closed up shop after Twitter pulled the plug back in 2016, some four years after they initially purchased the platform. Even though Vine defined a significant, short-form movement they ultimately lost momentum as other platforms adapted to cater to this style of content, from Twitter to Instagram, Snapchat, and beyond. 

Many other recognizable apps that failed have faded into memory over the years: the Google+ platform couldn’t cut it against other social media titans, the ridesharing app Juno was basically absorbed into Lyft, the TechCrunch app quietly disappeared from the app stores just recently. The list goes on.

So, let’s take a look at some not-so-spooky tales of apps that are no longer with us. 

Or are they…

Houseparty

Once upon a time, a virus from a faraway land would spread across the world, leaving doom and destruction in its wake. The people went into hiding but grew lonesome and restless from the isolation. To bring the people some semblance of normalcy, Houseparty would come to aid in the fight by playing a supporting role as a video chat app, a hero we didn’t exactly want.

We covered the journey of Houseparty to demonstrate how some apps can evolve to meet user needs since they first came on the scene as Meerkat before it was rebranded as Houseparty in 2016. Early on, the product was fairly unique as it would provide a feature absent from most free video calling solutions by offering “rooms” that could host multiple participants. Houseparty just happened to be an ideal tool for people during the pandemic because it was easy and helped fill a kind gap created by the isolation. In 2020, they would see a staggering 17 million downloads as a result and even won a Webby Award as the Breakout of the Year app. 

Fast forward to now and things aren’t going so hot. The app will shut down in October 2021 as parent company Epic has recognized that Houseparty just doesn’t produce enough value to keep it going, as is.

The reason? Houseparty is really just a feature. Everything it achieved last year is virtually meaningless at this point – its honors will soon be buried alongside those of the numerous other successful companies that have come and gone over the years.

Interestingly, just as the pandemic helped some apps rise to fame, it crippled others, causing them to join the ranks of apps that failed. The product we developed for inHouse made it to the Webby Awards last year but eventually succumbed to the effects of the pandemic as the MVP of the product centered on in-person dining experiences.

Amazon PrimeNow

Amazon has spearheaded a few different initiatives and today, their name is everywhere you look from the web to their delivery vehicles on roadways around the US. They’re no stranger to failure either as many of their products and services have dissolved over the years from the Fire Phone to Amazon Auctions.

The PrimeNow service was an early entrant into the on-demand delivery market that allowed users to quickly summon a variety of household products to their doorstep. Over time, new competition would arrive but PrimeNow would lose its identity as a unique service, now that Amazon incorporates the same feature into their eCommerce platform. They just recently shut down PrimeNow as a result.

Amazon PrimeNow also falls into the category of being ‘just a feature’ with respect to the scope of all that Amazon’s retail services offer. Instead of completely dying off and becoming one of many apps that failed entirely, they now incorporate this service as an option on select products as part of Amazon Prime.

Repost

The Repost app is a platform that acts as a tool to, well, repost Instagram content – it allows users to share and reshare media as their own post within the platform by first “cloning” original post in Repost. They’ve lost traction over the years but they still have a unique offering, seeing as Instagram’s content sharing feature is much different (i.e. more limited) than Facebook or Twitter.

Repost still exists, but today it’s exclusive to the web, a move that they addressed in their FAQs. Many users relied on Repost as a tool to share Instagram content by first downloading content they enjoy before uploading to Repost where the content once had greater mobility. Now, with the prevalence of good native solutions for taking screenshots and recordings, Repost has lost some of its luster.

Their apps were neglected (likely, from a lack of use) so they consolidated to the web where users can still interact with the platform. Users can still take advantage of Repost’s offerings, it’s just that it all has to be done from the web app

More than likely, Repost will probably fade from existence if it remains the same and join other apps that failed. However, only time will tell as they have ample opportunity to rally with new features and gain traction in the market. Whether they will or not remains to be seen.

HQ Trivia

The late Alex Trebeck showed us that the world loves trivia and technology solidified this as a truth. There are tons of trivia games from standalone apps to social media integrations and among them, HQ Trivia stood above the rest.

Truly, their story could be framed as one of “rebirth” but it’s more of an outlier instance of a time when last-minute decisions and speaking too soon can work out if you’re lucky.

HQ Trivia is a platform where users can participate in a trivia contest and win money. The same guys who came up with Vine managed to rapidly grow the business after it launched in 2017 – they collaborated with big names like Nike, Google, and others like Warner where their work landed them an Emmy nomination.

In 2018, things started to derail after a shift in management when co-founder Colin Kroll took over CEO then OD’d a few months later on heroin. After a couple of years of ups and downs, the market filled up with new competition and HQ’s new ideas (like a photo match, among others) didn’t vibe with their audience.

In early 2020, co-founder and current CEO, Rus Yusupov, took to Twitter to announce the shutdown of HQ Trivia. But four days later, he backpedals with a new tweet:

Rus on Twitter: “1/ On Friday I announced that @hqtrivia was shutting down after a failed acquisition. Well it was a busy weekend, and HQ WILL LIVE ON. More below / Twitter”

1/ On Friday I announced that @hqtrivia was shutting down after a failed acquisition. Well it was a busy weekend, and HQ WILL LIVE ON. More below

About a month later, HQ Trivia was back online. The gist of it was that the app wasn’t making money, investors’ confidence was shaken on account of the performance, and it looked like it was time to shut it down. Thanks to last-minute changes with investors, HQ Trivia missed its date with death and will live on for another day.

Seeing as how it was on track to become one of many apps that failed, it’ll be interesting to see if they manage to turn things around or just delayed the inevitable

Blue Label Labs sends our condolences

Death is pretty much a surety wherever you find life. As we can see, some simply dissolve while others live on through spiritual successor or as a feature to something bigger. We help businesses by managing all phases of a product’s lifecycle, from the exciting times in the beginning to uncertain times near the end. Not everything is meant to live forever however, we’re well-versed in pivoting valuable digital products to contend in current market conditions. To learn more or discuss your idea for an app, get in touch today.