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Meta launched Threads on July 5 and became the fastest-growing app ever. Founder Mark Zuckerberg tracked every milestone as it crossed 2 million sign-ups in the first two hours, 5 million in the first four hours, 10 million in seven hours and 30 million in 24 hours. Threads got a whopping 100 million sign-ups in a week.
This was unprecedented growth for any platform in the history of the internet, but what’s the guarantee that this rapid success will sustain? According to experts, a social media platform without a clear purpose, target audience, seamless tech or a combination of any one of these is headed for a miserable failure. Even Facebook, a platform that found Zuckerberg incredible success, is losing users every day.
Here is a list of six platforms that lost out in the last decade.
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Vine, founded in 2012 by Dom Hofmann, Rus Yusupov, and Colin Kroll, quickly gained popularity as a unique platform for creating and viewing content. It was acquired by Twitter for $30 million in the same year and released on Android, iOS, and Windows in 2013. However, Vine’s success was short-lived.
Its initial dominance in the market was due to the lack of competition. Top creators like King Bach, Nash Grier, Amanda Cerny, and Rudy Mancuso amassed millions of followers and billions of Vine “loops”. Unfortunately, Vine’s downfall was just as swift as its ascent.
The main reason behind Vine’s failure was its failure to establish a monetisation program to reward its creators. Despite earning millions in ad revenue from user-generated content, Vine’s creators struggled to turn their creativity into a sustainable career. Top creators attempted to negotiate official deals with the Vine management, but their requests were rejected. Consequently, these creators migrated to YouTube, where they could compile their Vines into videos and earn a living. Vine’s refusal to compensate creators for their work contrasted with the approach of TikTok, a platform that understood the importance of supporting and rewarding creators.
Launched in April 2020, Clubhouse, a social audio app, initially attracted users through its invite-only feature and notable personalities like Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg. However, there was no moat in the business. A few months later, Twitter announced a new feature called Spaces in the microblogging platform, which made Clubhouse obsolete.
Besides, as pandemic restrictions eased, daily active users decreased significantly, especially after celebrities and their followers left the platform. Clubhouse’s management failed to establish a business model, lacked user and analytics data, and couldn’t curate conversations effectively. In April, this year the company announced they were laying off more than half of their employees. The founders said they need to “reset” the company in the aftermath of COVID-19.
Musical.ly was a short-form video social media platform that gained over 200 million users during its active years which began in April 2014. It allowed users to create and share short videos with soundtracks, focusing on lip-syncing content. The app was headquartered in Shanghai and became particularly popular with pre-teen and teenage girls, especially in the US. In 2017, it was acquired by ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, for around $800 million.
However, ByteDance eventually decided to merge Musical.ly into TikTok, resulting in the shutdown of the Musical.ly app. The merger allowed TikTok to consolidate users and features from Musical.ly into its platform. The decision to shut down Musical.ly and merge it with TikTok was driven by ByteDance’s desire to leverage the user base and technology of both platforms, streamline resources, and compete more effectively in the global video-sharing market.
Yik Yak was an anonymous social media app that allowed users to make posts visible to others within a 5-mile radius launched in November 2013. It gained popularity, particularly on school and college campuses in the US, with 1.8 million downloads by September 2014. The app’s founders, Tyler Droll and Brooks Buffington, secured funding and raised the company’s value to around $400 million at its peak.
The app struggled with site performance, leading to slow loading times and an inability to handle high traffic. One significant factor in Yik Yak’s decline was its issue with cyberbullying. The app’s anonymity and hyper-localisation made it a breeding ground for bullying. Instances of threats, violence, and harassment were reported, leading to media outcry, school bans, and negative user experiences. Yik Yak attempted to address the problem by implementing geo-fencing, and disabling app usage in schools. However, this decision severely impacted its user base, as schools and colleges were its primary market.
Kik Messenger was a free mobile messaging app that allowed users to send audio, text, images, GIFs, and videos which began its services in 2010. It differentiated itself by not requiring phone number sign-up and offering anonymity and chatbot integration.
Kik faced challenges due to changing strategic directions, ownership changes, and content moderation issues. In 2019, the app was sold to MediaLab after unsuccessful attempts at reinventing the company. MediaLab continued to maintain the platform without significant innovation.
Its decline can be attributed to its constant shifts in focus, lack of effective monetisation, distraction with ICOs, and inability to effectively moderate content. The ownership of Kik currently rests with MediaLab, a Los Angeles-based holding company with experience in running digital assets. The exact acquisition price remains undisclosed.
Google+ had seamless technology and a large number of users who had already signed up for Gmail. The company also sent many private invitations and hyped up the platform so much that it had 10 million users within 2 weeks of launch in 2011. After a year, it only had 90 million users.
Even with superior technology, Google failed to understand customers’ wants and needs. Facebook already existed as a platform connecting people, and Google wanted users to share everything, including emails, tweets, photos, videos, which users found unnecessary. It failed to connect people outside of its own ecosystem. The concept of ‘circles’ was interesting but was confusing to use and sharing posts and images was complicated. Google+ also lacked a strong mobile experience.
It tried to be everything and ended up being nothing that users needed.
Things changed further when its founder Vic Gundotra left in 2014. Its collaboration with Photos and Hangouts was abandoned and it came out as an independent social networking site. It further detached YouTube and GooglePlay and was left confused on what the purpose of the platform was. Strong competition and no vision finally led to its demise.