Skip

Our Incredible Journey
March 26, 2013 10:55 AM   Subscribe

A catalogue of startups announcing their sale to bigger fish, and their eventual and/or immediate dissolution. Site creator Phil Gyford explains its purpose: But I’m also trying to raise bigger questions. Is this the best way to structure and grow new businesses? Is this the best long-term model for keeping people interested in making and doing amazing things on the internet? Why do almost no websites or online services (my own included) have plans for what happens to their users’ content over the long term? If we should accept that no website or online service, particularly “free” ones, will last a lifetime or longer, what can we do about managing peoples’ expectations better?
posted by Cash4Lead (21 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
IRONY ALERT: HOSTED ON TUMBLR.
posted by Happy Dave at 11:06 AM on March 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Although I guess it could have been on Posterous.
posted by Happy Dave at 11:06 AM on March 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oddly, there doesn't seem to be anything in my eye. This Tumblr is surprisingly dust free.
posted by chavenet at 11:11 AM on March 26, 2013


Funny if we discover that the "dinosaurs" has an incredibly comprehensive bio network that integrated all the information anyone would want to know online 24/7 for thousands of years until one medium sized rock....
posted by sammyo at 11:16 AM on March 26, 2013


so many communities destroyed...

I'm sure many, many people felt like that when "Hipster" closed.
posted by colie at 11:18 AM on March 26, 2013


Is this the best long-term model for keeping people interested in making and doing amazing things on the internet?

No, this is the best way to make a fuckton of money. Suddenly you have a whole lot of infrastructure you're no longer responsible for and a wad of cash. I'm pretty sure this is the goal of many startups. Attract as many users as possible by running at an incredible loss, then get bought out by Google/Facebook/UrMicrosoft for a magnitude more than what you put it.
posted by hellojed at 11:20 AM on March 26, 2013 [8 favorites]


I'm pretty sure this is the goal of many startups.

Apart from the one in a million like Facebook that creates its own universe, surely this is the goal of all "startups"?

They are just vehicles for capital, but it's worrying how so many jobs that once allowed you to bring up a family etc (clerical, creative, technology etc) are now all geared into the big gamble of whether the startup you work for will get acquired or not.
posted by colie at 11:26 AM on March 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


Here's what I said last time we had the 'startups are ridiculous' discussion:
[Startup culture is] coming up with wacky ideas to sooth the fevered brows of febrile investors ridding the foamy cresting tip of a tidal wave of money sloshing around a functionally broken late-stage capitalist system. If actual businesses with actual customers, revenue, employees and expenditure beyond a few Macbooks and some server time (i.e. functioning corporate members of a functioning economy) come out of this (or indeed any of the other VC hothouses) I'll eat my hat.

VC culture is a symptom of the systematic gutting of nation states by giant balls of money rolling around the landscape. Fifty years ago, people this smart were building national infrastructure and putting footprints in moondust. Now the seething morass of finance is stripping the best and brightest from every country in the world either to come up with the fever dreams or package them and sell them to everyone else.
Still true.
posted by Happy Dave at 11:32 AM on March 26, 2013 [24 favorites]



They are just vehicles for capital, but it's worrying how so many jobs that once allowed you to bring up a family etc (clerical, creative, technology etc) are now all geared into the big gamble of whether the startup you work for will get acquired or not.


You're either running a start up, or you're considered a temp (law, adjunct professors, actual companies who only hire temps and contractors now). I have no idea how anyone raises a family anymore.
posted by bleep at 11:33 AM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Can't wait for the inevitable communist revolution, fellas.
posted by hellojed at 11:46 AM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


You're either running a start up, or you're considered a temp (law, adjunct professors, actual companies who only hire temps and contractors now). I have no idea how anyone raises a family anymore.

Yeah I have a friend who's suddenly concerned because he has a history of working with startups and similarly unstable companies (as do I) but now he wants to buy a house and raise a family. When he talks about this I just laugh kind of deliriously because the idea of doing those things with our crazy lifestyle, its demands, and the fact that you can walk into work on any day and be let go, even if something you were working on was massively successful (it just wasn't successful enough for The Shareholders or The Investors) seems completely insane to me. I know people that do it and their lives seem terrifying, so scary I can't imagine it. I have thoughts like "Maybe if I'm in one place for like 3 years, I can start thinking about buying." Hasn't happened yet.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 12:06 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


@GTW "...the fact that you can walk into work on any day and be let go, even if something you were working on was massively successful (it just wasn't successful enough for The Shareholders or The Investors) seems completely insane to me."

It's not so different at many smaller companies, or certain divisions within large companies, these days, even well established ones.

(Especially divisions such as R&D that when looked at in isolation are not profit centers in and of themselves.)
posted by thefool at 12:50 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


The people who made Posterous (full disclosure: I've met Garry, who is one of them, multiple times and he's given me advice and stuff, cool guy, I think he also reads mefi) also made Posthaven, which actually does promise to keep your data forever.

Pepsi Blue, of course, but that is one consideration to make in saying that startups don't care about your data.
posted by curuinor at 12:52 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Even though one can, in theory, save pre-digital stuff for long periods of time, in practice, it doesn't usually happen. My life is pretty much evenly split pre and post Internet, and much of the "content" I've generated is gone either way.

That said, I hope Internet speeds get a lot faster before Flickr gets shut down.
posted by snofoam at 1:07 PM on March 26, 2013


curuinor, take this or leave it since i don't have any specific citations...

But i remember in the early early 2000s, or possibly even the very end of the 90s(in internet terms, it all kind of blends together in my head) running in to several sites with this kind of "your stuff will last forever here!" promise. Obviously my point is, they don't exist anymore and i can't even remember their names.

Maybe i'll start to take them seriously when it's been around for 10 years or something.
posted by emptythought at 1:07 PM on March 26, 2013


I know people that do it and their lives seem terrifying, so scary I can't imagine it.

This isn't a new state of affairs for Silicon Valley or Boston, going back to the 60's - gigs last a few years, and then you move on, dragging your 401k behind you. After a while, you get good at reading when to jump rather than waiting to get pushed.

Eventually you'll find your way into corporate IT or a small mom'n'pop tech outfit that relies on positive cash flow from a niche industry they've got locked down rather than VC candy, and the ebb and flow of employment churn slows or stops outright if you want - so long as you're competent and pleasant to work with.

Or, if you have a spouse who's got a non-tech career with benefits, you can also move to consulting, and if you impress enough clients and have a head for people and money, you can start your own consulting firm.

I don't think many people can stick with riding startups their whole career - age discrimination really is rampant. However, once you step outside of the start-up arena, landing a job in your 50's is much easier in IT than it would be for, say, an accountant or financial analyst - so long as your skills are up to date and you can bring the depth of experience required of someone mid-career. It's a little trickier for someone starting over from another field. Age discrimination sucks.

I had a rough patch in the early aughts, because I decided to move to another time zone and start over just as the dot-coms imploded and 9/11 happened - you begin to think twice before doing such things with a mortgage and a kid.
posted by Slap*Happy at 1:19 PM on March 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


Is this the best long-term model for keeping people interested in making and doing amazing things on the internet?

The best long-term model for this is FOSS software that works via open standards on publicly available data. That's what made the Internet in the first place and that's what will make the next big thing that everyone builds businesses around.

The history of our society's computer infrastructure consists and will continue to consist of the gradual progress of free & open platforms building upon themselves, surrounded by enormous batches of half-baked proprietary widgets being cooked up, left in various states of disrepair, and eventually surpassed.
posted by value of information at 1:20 PM on March 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


> Site creator Phil Gyford

Excuse me, I think you meant to say MeFi's own Phil Gyford. Dude has a four-digit user number, suckers!
posted by languagehat at 1:34 PM on March 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


I was really disappointed when punchfork got bought by pinterest, because it was the best recipe aggregator I'd found. Then I read this and realized that getting bought by pinterest was probably the goal of the person who started it.
posted by lunasol at 2:01 PM on March 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


Thanks all for the interest. And, yes, I was aware of the irony of hosting the thing on Tumblr, but weighing that up against starting yet another self-hosted WordPress or Movable Type website, I took the easy route. Which I guess is the root if the problem - self-hosting might be the best way to ensure things stay online for decades, but it's a lot more work. Maybe not for one site, but if you keep starting the bloody things...

Anyway, although I started the site as a criticism of these acqui-hires, I'm not sure what the answer to the problem (of people's content being deleted by shuttering startups) is. It's super easy to start a new website to try out an idea, and that's fantastic - it's what keeps new ideas and experiments coming. But it feels like that technological ease of starting up is in some kind of imbalance with the long term responsibility (social? moral?) of asking thousands or millions of strangers to contribute content and build relationships on your platform.

I have no solution. No startup is going to put a big notice on their new site saying "WARNING! We might take this site offline in two years' time if we get bought!" because, obviously, it's going to somewhat hamper their sign-up rate. And I wouldn't want people to stop creating new sites because of this responsibility. (Although I think starting a long-running site a decade ago has put me off starting anything since that features people contributing in any meaningful way.)

So I guess the least bad improvement is for individuals to be a lot more wary of taking part in any site that shows no sign of having a revenue stream or, at least, a way of transferring your stuff to an alternative, similar site. But I don't see that happening either.
posted by fabius at 3:15 PM on March 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


And another one bites the dust. I predict that Livemocha will be absorbed by Rosetta Stone's live conversation practice feature and disappear with the next RS version, if not sooner.
posted by Wylla at 8:07 AM on April 2, 2013


« Older Nothing is ungoogleable in Sweden   |   Tripod versus the Dragon Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post