RIP, AltaVista and Google Wave; we hardly knew ye

A bunch of Yahoo, Google, and Microsoft sites are now dead, Jim. Many more also expired in 2010. Who will be next?

Today a lot of people are mourning the possible loss of Delicious (or, as it used to be known, del.icio.us), following news that Yahoo is planning to sell or otherwise dispose of the popular Web bookmarking service five years after acquiring it.

Given the frequency with which companies acquired by Yahoo are shut down or otherwise disposed of, you'd think the folks at Yahoo were wearing a black cowl and carrying a scythe. Finding out you have a message from Carol Bartz must be like your doctor telling you he found a dark spot on your X-ray.

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Read Write Web's Marshall Kirkpatrick is especially broken up about the possibility of Delicious' demise (do note that many websites have claimed Delicious was killed, but that's not true):

It's a loss not just for the many people who used Delicious to archive links of interest to them around the Web, it's a loss for the future -- for what could have been. Five years later, people are just beginning to appreciate the value of passively published user activity data made available for analysis, personalization, and more. That could have been you, Delicious ...

It was beautiful. And now it's gone.

The Library of Congress should have bought it, similar to the way it has now archived every tweet ever tweeted.

So much value. So unappreciated. So tragically lost. Where will we all gather next, where our bookmarks can be centralized for maximum network effect?

Me, I was never a Delicious aficionado. Really, all of the social bookmarking/aggregation sites -- Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon, and so on -- leave me cold. They're either inscrutable to use, or they tend to be dominated by too many obnoxious teenagers with too much time on their hands. Maybe Delicious was different -- but it may be too late, in any case.

On Yahoo's actual hit list: AltaVista, the first great search engine. (Remember when there used to be more than one search engine?) That one stings me more, but only in a nostalgic way -- kind of like when Leslie Nielsen died.

Yahoo has stuffed eight other services into a bag and dragged them down to the river: MyBlogLog, Yahoo Picks, Yahoo Buzz, Yahoo Bookmarks, Fire Eagle, Yahoo Events, Yahoo People, and Sideline. I'm sure they'll be missed by somebody, if only the employees who used to work at them.

There is apparently a big die-off going on right now on the InterWebs. Cnet has obits for 15 sites and services that took a dirt nap in 2010 -- and that was before the news about Yahoo broke. Some of the more notable disappearances:

Lala.com. Purchased by Apple and presumably folded into the new Ping/iTunes social music mashup. I liked Lala; it was well designed and clever.

Google Wave. Mercy-killed by Google after less than two years, finally allowing us to stop asking the obvious question, "What the frak is Google Wave?" Interestingly, Facebook's new Messages scheme bears a passing resemblance to Wave; maybe we'll be reading its obituary in a year or two.

Google-411. A service I actually used, occasionally. How dare Google take away a free service that saved me $1.25 on a regular basis? I plan to write a strongly worded letter to Marissa Mayer (hopefully, she'll reward me with some cell phone pix).

Cuil (pronounced "cool"). A search engine that was supposed to out-Google Google. The problem: The results it returned were often laughably off-base. Turns out Cuil really rhymed with "tool."

Windows Live Spaces. Microsoft's attempt to get into the blog platform biz ended with predictable results. Here's a clue: Whenever Microsoft attaches the word "Live" to anything, expect it to be dead within the year.

This is the nature of technology and especially of the Web, which those of us caught up in the day-to-day tsunami of news tend to forget: Empires rise and fall with great alacrity. Remember when AOL was the future of all media? Yeah, I never believed that either, but it was convincing enough to fool Time Warner.

HuffPo tech editress Bianca Bosker has a long piece on the rise and not-quite-fall of Microsoft. At one time we thought the company was the Borg; turns out it was more like the Ferengi.

The lesson here is that the mighty do fall -- which folks like Facebook and Google would do well to remember.

Who do you think will be the next Web titan to go belly up? E-mail me: cringe@infoworld.com.

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Robert X. Cringely

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