When an app gets a whopping $41 million in funding before it even launches, you can pretty much guarantee high expectations. That's what happened to photo-sharing app Color back in 2011, partly due to the caliber of one of its founders, Bill Nguyen, who had recently sold off music site Lala to Apple. With Color, you could create ad-hoc "social networks" based on the people around you. Anyone who shares a photo on Color at the same place and time would be able to see a shared photo stream.
Unfortunately, this opened the door to potential privacy concerns, as everything on Color was public by default. Additionally, Color was pretty useless if you weren't the sort to take photos around a lot of other people or didn't care much about interacting with nearby strangers. People just weren't into it. Six months later, Color re-launched with Facebook integration and video sharing. Then it tried a Verizon partnership where it'd come pre-installed in the carrier's phones. In the end, even $41 million couldn't salvage what was ultimately a poorly executed idea.
Source: Color Labs (Wikipedia)
Newspapers are a dying breed, and News Corp. knew it. So in February 2011, the publishing powerhouse launched a brave new digital effort called The Daily, the first iPad-only newspaper. It was promoted heavily by both Apple and News Corp. and hailed as a pioneer of digital publishing.
Unfortunately it was plagued by three important factors: It was paywalled; it was iPad-only; and it only published once a day, which is simply not current enough for today's information-hungry audience. In the end, it just couldn't get the subscription numbers required to sustain it. The Daily closed shop in December 2012.
[Photo credit: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images]
No, Oink was not an app about pigs. Developed by Kevin Rose and his then-startup Milk Inc. in late 2011, Oink was a ratings app akin to Yelp. But instead of rating the actual restaurant, with Oink you'd rate the restaurant's menu offerings. So you could rank the pizza at one restaurant as being better than the pizza at another, or you could say that the pepperoni is the better option than the mushroom. If you used the #pizza hashtag, others would then be able to find the best pizza available in their area.
Though a simple idea, Oink quickly gained traction, clocking in at almost 100,000 downloads after only two and a half weeks. But a mere five months after its debut, Oink shut down, with the Milk team stating that it was just a "test."
Why would anyone wait in line for an email app? Ridiculous as that sounds, that's exactly what around 380,000 people did for Mailbox, an iOS email program that debuted in February 2013. Made specifically to handle Gmail accounts, Mailbox promised a better and easier way to reach the highly coveted status of Inbox Zero. A key feature was that you could "snooze" emails to be reminded of at a later date, which is useful for emails that you don't need to act on immediately.
The Mailbox team implemented the aforementioned wait list to keep the server from crashing. Unfortunately, that meant that it took some people several days to start using the app -- which is pretty crazy for an app as vital as email. As for whether Mailbox works as promised? Well, some folks didn't like it all that much -- it doesn't make use of Gmail labels, and putting tasks off for later encourages procrastination. However, a majority of people obviously did -- it proved successful enough that Dropbox acquired it in March 2013, and it's still in the App Store today.
More of a lock screen replacement than an app, Facebook Home was announced at a special event on April 4th, 2013, and was as close as the social network giant ever got to releasing its own phone. Bundled with the HTC First, Home was also available as a separate download on the Google Play store so you could load it onto other compatible Android phones. When installed, it essentially puts Facebook front and center on your device.
In the immediate aftermath of its high-profile release, Facebook Home did get a fair bit of attention, chalking up almost a million downloads in the span of a month. But save for a few updates, there's been little to report since then. Mark Zuckerberg was quoted in a recent interview saying that he was rather disappointed in Home's slow reception, but he also recognized that it was a risky proposition in the first place. At the time of this writing, Facebook Home is still available on the Google Play store, but hasn't been updated for over six months.
Flappy Bird is probably the most overhyped mobile game to come our way in the past few years. Even though it was released on May 24, 2013, it gained sudden notoriety in 2014 when it rose to the top of Apple's App Store and was then later released on Google Play for Android. The gameplay was famously addictive, but difficult to master -- you control a bird's flight path by tapping the screen at the right time, navigating it through a series of pipes without crashing into them. Flappy Bird turned out to be so popular that its developer, Dong Nguyen, claimed that he earned $50,000 a day from in-app ads.
Which made his decision to shut the game down and pull it from the App Store on February 10, 2014, all the more puzzling. According to Nguyen, he felt guilt over how addictive the game turned out to be and lost sleep over it. Its sudden removal prompted a slew of Flappy Bird copycats, and phones with pre-installed copies of the game were put on eBay for around $900 each. However, it seems like Nguyen mustn't have felt too guilty about it, as he recently announced he's coming out with a second version of Flappy Bird that adds multiplayer and promises to be less addictive.
As far as dating apps go, few are as ubiquitous and as popular as Tinder. Launched in September 2012, the app is essentially a simplified version of online speed dating. It matches you up with potential dates in your area based on the number of mutual friends and common interests. From there, you can like or pass on them by swiping or tapping the profile, and if there's a mutual interest, the app will let you message each other. It's no secret that the app is not just meant for finding love, but also for casual hookups, and is one of a few dating apps to have caught on amongst women as well as men. As of April of this year, Tinder is said to have around 10 million active daily users.
As popular as it is, however, Tinder has hit a few snags. There've been reported privacy issues as well as complaints about fake bot profiles that'll spam you with ads. Most notably, Tinder has undergone a bit of a public controversy of late, as co-founder Whitney Wolfe has filed a sexual harassment and sex discrimination lawsuit against her former partners. Still, Tinder's popularity in the mainstream continues, as is evidenced by this recent sketch with late-night host Conan O'Brien.
A couple of years after Twitter co-founder Biz Stone left the microblogging company, rumors surfaced that he was working on something new called Jelly. Details about the project were kept under wraps for nearly a year, with plenty of publications speculating as to what it could possibly entail. Finally, in January of 2014, Jelly was unveiled to the world as a Q&A app. It's similar to Quora, except it relies more on visual images and the crowdsourced wisdom of Facebook and Twitter. Jelly's launch gained quite a bit of buzz in both the tech and mainstream press, but though it's gained a few feature updates since then -- like the addition of comments -- we've not heard much from Jelly since.
If you've ever wanted to confess your deepest fears or engage in a bit of kiss-and-tell without the fear of outing yourself, then you might be interested in an app called Secret. Released in January of this year, Secret is the current poster child of the anonymous-sharing app movement that's part of a recent trend in Silicon Valley. Unlike other anonymous apps, however, posts on Secret are limited to a network of friends based on your phone's address book. More recently, they've extended that network to include your Facebook friends if you decide to offer the service your Facebook credentials.
Over the past few months, Secret has gained something of a cult following -- there's even a rogue spin-off service called anonyfish that lets people on Secret message each other using disposable usernames. The app has also received a lot of attention due to leaked industry secrets -- Vic Gundotra's departure from Google was supposedly leaked on Secret, and so were the recent round of Nike layoffs. As a result, the company has grown quite rapidly since its launch -- it's recently raised an additional $25 million that gives the six-month-old company a valuation of higher than $100 million.
Moshe Hogeg and Or Arbel created Yo mostly as a goofy side project. They even released it on April Fools' Day as a gag. But, surprisingly, the app whose sole purpose is to send the word "Yo" to someone else -- simply tap your friend's name in the app and he or she will see the word "Yo" on their lock screen -- actually caught on. Before Hogeg or Arbel knew it, the app had been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times and became one of the top apps in the Apple App Store.
The app isn't all silliness. A Yo hackathon revealed potential use cases -- a toaster that sends you a Yo once the toast is ready, or a service that'll bookmark a song for you whenever you send a Yo to a radio station. Indeed, the app has recently partnered with Red Alert, a notification service that warns folks in Israel of rocket strikes. It seems like there's more to Yo than meets the eye. But as Stephen Colbert demonstrates in the clip you see here, it can't be denied that Yo is still pretty dumb.