Failures of technology

Published: 28 April, 2009 10:03 IST | Balaji Narasimhan |

Is the recession making you feel scared? Check out these dot-com failures and feel happy that you weren't working there when the axe fell!

Is the recession making you feel scared? Check out these dot-com failures and feel happy that you weren't working there when the axe fell!

Technology is usually seen as a successful industry that moves at a blazing pace. While this is true most of the time, technology is also a bit like a crowded speeding bus with empty doorframes every time the bus turns somebody or the other falls out.

While failures are common and some company or the other is always shutting down, at no time was it more prevalent than during the days of the dot-com bubble bust, when riches-to-rags was more the norm than the exception.

Here, we bring you five big failures of the technology industry from the days of the dot-com bubble:

>>Burning money like water: Can you spend $135 million in just 18 months? If you can, we will not give you any prizes because got there first. Ernst Malmsten, one of the founders, wrote a book called 'boo hoo' in 2001, which concerned his experiences with this company.

>>Toying with the idea:
Want to buy a toy on the Internet? was hoping that you would, and so did everybody else. As a result, the share price went up to $80 in May 1999 during its IPO. Of course, when the bubble burst, it went below $1.

>>Smell something fishy?
While we were all going gaga about the multimedia potential of the Web, one company called DigiScents wanted to bring you smells over the Internet. The site still stands, but the only thing I can smell near my PC is my lunchbox.

>>46 days and not counting:
One of the cleverer companies was, which shut down just 46 days after a gala launch party. Prudently, the people behind the venture decided not to wait until they ran out of the $22 million they had.

>>Go away:
The site was started by Walt Disney. A lot of money was spent on the site, but it never really took off. While it is still around, it lives on as just another site.

Two of a kind
How do you describe Marc Andreessen and Sabeer Bhatia? Can one call them failures? No after all, they were responsible for making the usage of the Web and of Webmail popular. On the other hand, can you call them successes? Again, no Andreessen's Netscape is nowhere in the picture today and while Sabeer Bhatia did sell HotMail to Microsoft, reportedly for $400 million, what has he done lately?

In some ways, Andreessen and Bhatia can be seen as people who started a trend, but were unable to push it forward. There was a time when Andreessen was actually seen as the next Bill Gates an idea that is laughable today, but held some water in the good old days when Microsoft struggled to make Internet Explorer click.

Again, Bhatia was seen as somebody who would do something big after selling Hotmail but nobody remembers him anymore. Many of his subsequent ventures, like Arzoo, Live Documents and, have not generated a great deal of interest.

In summation, you could say that Andreessen and Bhatia were two horses that were only good for just one race.

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