Why do some services that are particularly favored by users fail?

Robert’s MetaMask
Nov 29, 2023

As someone who has experienced the ups and downs of the Internet, there are some services that emerged in the Web 2.0 era that I always miss from time to time.

Blog / RSS Reader#

Perhaps what I talk about the most is Blog and RSS, as well as the product Google Reader at that time. Although the blog format and RSS technology have always been alive, and even gave birth to powerful companies such as WordPress behind them, which have achieved good results so far, it is undeniable that the era of blog and RSS is no longer there.

Before Google Reader, there was actually Bloglines, which declined after being acquired by Ask.com. But with Google Reader being such a pleasant product to use, not many people may miss Bloglines.

RSS - Wikipedia

Bookmark Services#

Another product that I miss is Del.icio.us, which is an online bookmarking service. Delicious had an unfortunate fate. It was first bought by Yahoo (reportedly for a low price), then sold back and forth, and finally closed.

Delicious (website) - Wikipedia

Why these products make me missing is not because of nostalgia, but because they provided me with good services and values, and these values and services are not fully available in other subsequent products. For example, after Google Reader was closed, there were many alternatives, such as feedly, etc., which even support exporting Google Reader's subscription list, but I always felt that something was wrong, so I have never been able to use it.

There are many successful follow up websites in the bookmark and web excerpt categories, including the short-lived Digg, the niche Hackernews that has always been tepid, the relatively popular reddit, the successful Newspicks in Japan, and even the 4chan community. However, these services are somewhat looks similar to del.icio.us in appearance but different in the core value.

Why "good services" are shut down ?#

Why would companies shut down these services if they were so good? This is a very good question. When a company closes these businesses, it must be because they are not "good" enough, otherwise there would be no reason to switch off.

The reason why Google shut down Google Reader may be very simple: this business is not profitable enough. Google Reader is just one of countless projects that have been shut down by Google. Google reader is highly personalized and is not suitable for inserting advertisements (it is estimated that users will be disgusted if advertisements are inserted). Moreover, Google reader is an RSS reader and does not have the concept of "recommendation", so it is difficult for Google to insert content under its own control into it. In view of these considerations, even if Google reader feels very good from the user's perspective, it may feel useless from Google's perspective. The number of users and traffic of Google Reader may be astronomical figures that are coveted for small companies, but they are not worth mentioning for Google.

Taking Google Reader as a reference, it is not difficult to understand the decline of Blog/RSS, because these services are all personal-centric, and it is difficult for service providers to embed advertisements or make "recommendations" in these products to control the content. In contrast, Facebook, Twitter and other square-type products are suitable for many. Once advertisements, recommendation systems and other content are forcibly inserted into individual-centered products, users may be very dissatisfied and leave to choose other services. Therefore, the traditional Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 advertising models will not work.

Bookmarking and web excerpting services such as Del.icio.us are basically the same. They are convenient for users, but it is difficult for service providers to make money. Direct charging to users is not common at that time. Moreover, these services themselves are a bit "thin" and it is difficult for users to pay for this single service.

You can see that the surviving services after these models are usually "improvements" to these useful services, and add easy-to-make money advertising and recommendations, so they are not so popular from the user's perspective. From a certain perspective, this is a shortcoming of the model in the Web 2.0 era. In fact, users of “free” products are the commodities.

Will Web3 Change the landscape?#

If a service is owned by the user and paid for by the user, then the product does not need to depend on the service provider.

This is the advantage of independent products: a product that is truly owned by a user can be owned for a long time as long as the user is willing, regardless of the attitude of the service provider, and can be used for a long time even if the service provider no longer exists. For example, classic car enthusiasts can maintain their classic cars themselves, even if the car factory no longer exists.

Then there is only one problem left, which is the complexity and cost of owning and running these services. If users need to spend a lot of money, energy and technical details to run their own services, then there will not be many people who own them. It can be seen that self-host software products have always been a niche existence. Although its community is strong, there are too few people who have the ability and energy to make troubles.

Web 3 and some arising new technologies may bring about a turnaround for this type of application:

  • Web 3 emphasizes user ownership, that is, users own their own services and data;
  • With the emergence of a new generation of decentralized cloud computing services with Web 3 (such as our ArcBlock platform), this decentralized application cloud service combines the independent advantages of Self-host with the automation and automation of cloud computing services. The advantages of low cost, operation-free and easy-to-use.

Will the emergence of these infrastructures allow these services that users really like to develop and grow in the long term, breaking away from the curse of the web 2.0 business model? Time may tell, but now is the beginning of a turnaround.