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RIP technology: 10 products and services that died in 2011

Steve Fox | Dec. 28, 2011
Humans are list-making animals. At no time is that impulse more prevalent than December, when we set ourselves the task of churning out year-end retrospectives.

AltaVista: This once-mighty search engine has effectively been dead for years. But its demise became official in May, when corporate parent Yahoo swapped in its own search engine and started returning results on a Yahoo page. Yet in the days before Google, AltaVista was the Web's most sophisticated search engine, providing unprecedented full-text searching capabilities to the sprawl that was the mid-'90s Web. For that I'll be forever grateful, and maybe even a little wistful.

Google Labs: The development playground that gave rise to services such as Google Maps and Google Groups is no more, due to "streamlining efforts" implemented in July. The good news is that app-specific projects, such as Gmail Labs and Google Maps Labs, are still alive and kicking.

Google Health: Google will shut down this ambitious service, designed to provide users a secure place to store their personal health information, just as the big ball drops in Times Square, officially making it the first tech demise of 2012. But I'm including it here because I'd rather not wait a year to deliver the eulogy. A promising concept, Google Health was a victim of our suspicious human nature: Apparently we're not comfortable putting our health information in a third party's hands. Imagine--we don't trust Google. What a surprise.

Google Knol: Entry number three for Google in this year's Tech Senescence Stakes, Knol had big plans--namely, to challenge Wikipedia. Intended to be a user-written encyclopedia, Knol coulda been a contender if it had launched in, say, 2001 instead of 2007. But with so many of the world's content experts already doing their charity work for Wikipedia, Knol lacked enough fleshed-out articles to be taken seriously. Google's blog post on the subject notes that as of May 1, 2012, "knols won't be viewable." Fortunately, Knol won't be forgotten completely. Wikipedia has an article on it.

Dell Streak: Dell's entry into the crowded tablet sweepstakes, the Streak never gained any traction against the dominant iPad. The poorly reviewed tablet (which came in 5- and 7-inch versions) somehow felt like a me-too product even though it was one of the first Android tablets out there. The $200 price tag should have been a draw (as it was for the Amazon Kindle Fire), but the two-year AT&T contract required for activation was a turnoff. Dell can do better than this; I say it's time for a winning streak.

The white MacBook: From optical drives to FireWire ports, Apple has shown an uncanny ability to phase out technologies right before they become old hat. We're not really all that broken up about losing the white MacBook laptop this year. But if its retirement spells imminent doom for the color white, we're not going to be pleased.

 

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