In Pictures: Tech's biggest flops, fails, and faux pas of 2013

Oh, what a year to forget

  • As we assembled this slideshow, IAC’s (former) head of public relations, Justine Sacco, had just joked on Twitter about going to Africa and catching AIDS. If that doesn’t sum up the tone-deafness of 2013, nothing does. We’ve compiled 21 slides summarizing all that went wrong with technology in 2013—and quite frankly, we could have pulled together 20 more. From companies simply forgetting what customers want (happy holidays, Microsoft!) to the pure insanity of Tim Draper’s ballot proposal for six separate Californias, 2013 was a year best viewed through the bottom of a pint glass. Bottoms up, ladies and gentlemen...

  • Facebook Home How much Facebook is too much Facebook, our review asked. Way too much. Not only did Facebook Home bury a user’s commonly used apps, but HTC’s Facebook phone, the HTC First, also came and went faster than a status update. The one good thing? TechCrunch finally stopped talking about a Facebook Phone. Finally.

  • Twitter Music Twitter Music: because Rdio, MOG, Spotify, SoundCloud, iTunes, Google Play Music, Pandora, Xbox Music, and freaking MySpace simply didn’t offer enough venues to enjoy and talk about music. The worst part about Twitter Music? Buying the best add-on for Spotify, We Are Hunted, and burying it within Twitter’s walls. Twitter Music: #itsucks

  • BlackBerry’s death watch We now know that renaming itself BlackBerry couldn’t save RIM. Nor could the launch of BlackBerry 10. All that’s left do now is watch a once-proud company circle the drain. Let’s see: Turning down a $47 billion buyout? Yep. Tossing out the chief executive who famously predicted that tablets would die? Well, maybe that was a good thing. New CEO John Chen has only two items on his to-do list: cash in his golden parachute, and donate the company’s remaining stock of BlackBerrys to Ontario’s youth hockey leagues as replacement pucks.

  • Too many smartwatches! I know—let’s convince millions of customers to pay $299 to avoid lifting their smartphones out of their pockets! If that sounds like a good idea to you, please apply to the Samsung Galaxy Gear business development team. They have dozens of openings. Here’s a thought: If you really need to show off your “quantified self,” go spend $1.50 on a package of rubber bands and strap your oversize “phablet” to the wrist you lift your $8 artisanal soy macchiato with, you exhibitionist fop.

  • Vine Twitter’s big idea was to remix YouTube for the ADHD Generation, simply stealing the concept of the animated GIF and slapping a new logo on top of it. The result? A list of wannabe pop stars who would undoubtedly struggle to express anything remotely meaningful if Vine’s 6-second cutoff were magically lifted. And no, vanity URLs ain’t gonna save it. Vine’s just a weed, and rivals such as Instagram Video will kill it off.

  • Marissa Mayer slays Yahoo’s work-from-home policy We can’t help it: We’re unabashed fans of Yahoo’s new chief executive, whether she be standing in front of a whiteboard or perched demurely on an exercise ball. But Mayer’s decision to cancel Yahoo’s work-from-home policy added to the misery of thousands of workers in Silicon Valley, significantly contributed to global warming, and undoubtedly doomed all life on the planet to extinction. This has nothing to do with my own 2-hour commute, Marissa.

  • OnCue Having failed to learn the lesson of Twitter Music, Intel tried developing a streaming set-top box called OnCue to compete with Roku, WDTV, the Boxee Box, TiVo, SimpleTV, and pretty much every DVR that has ever been made. Who’s the guy in the picture? That’s OnCue, the rapper, who's only slightly less obscure than the Intel box that bears his name, Verizon be damned.

  • Microsoft’s Scroogled campaign Is there a better way to take the moral high ground than launching a possibly libelous advertising campaign against one of your chief competitors? Not if you’re Microsoft! Redmond continued its two-year propaganda campaign by launching actual merchandise (pictured) for the two or three fanboys who think that this kind of crap is funny. Meanwhile, Yahoo continued to complain that its ad deal with Microsoft wasn’t delivering enough revenue, probably because Microsoft wasn’t, well, stealing your data.

  • EA’s aborted ‘SimCity’ launch Does this image depict what happened to EA’s servers after the disastrous March launch of the new SimCity? Or the abuse rained down upon the company by players as it worked to solve persistent bugs? Either way, Maxis took a game that many regarded as a classic, unnecessarily simplified it, and then broke it. What’s next, EA? Turning Madden NFL into a series of quick-time events?

  • Tesla’s fire and test drive fail Tesla Motors began 2013 by publicly feuding with the New York Times, which claimed that Tesla’s “fuel gauge” was woefully inaccurate, forcing the reviewer to need towing in via flatbed truck after running out of juice. (That bad review, owner Elon Musk later claimed, cost Tesla $100 million.) Tesla’s high point of the year—its announcement that it would develop an essentially autonomous car—was overshadowed by a couple of very public Model-S fires, which threw a harsh light on the company’s claims that its haute-trendy sedan was amazingly safe.

  • Too many gold phones Apple has made some questionable design decisions before—we haven’t forgotten you, iMac—but its decision to launch a gold iPhone was accompanied by the typical panting of a slavishly devoted press corps. And that crime was quickly followed up by the copycats: gold Samsung Galaxys, gold HTC Ones, and other monstrosities. Look, if you want to spend over $10,000 on a phone, invest in a Vertu (there’s a kiosk at the Dubai airport, if you’re interested). Or just break out your Bedazzler and roll your own.

  • My Dell smells like cat pee True story: During my senior year of high school, I interned as a lab assistant at Clorox, helping to improve the company’s Fresh Step cat litter. And how do you measure such progress? By dousing it in cat urine. We had gallons of the stuff. My point? I know what cat pee smells like. And if I ever run across one of those strangely pungent Dell Latitude E6430u laptops, I will purge it with fire.

  • Silk Road goes under What lesson should we learn from the arrest of Ross William Ulbricht, the alleged “Dread Pirate Roberts” who ran the Silk Road trading site? That perhaps the “anonymous market” thing might have oversold itself a bit? That users who name themselves “420forlyfe” might be investigated by the feds? Although it wouldn’t be surprising to see someone pitch a “LinkedIn for organized crime” to TechCrunch, the odds of its surviving in the real world are minuscule.

  • Google Reader dies RSS is dead, replaced by Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and other forms of social media. Right? Right? Not so for tech journalists, who are the most important people on the planet. Hence the spate of breast-beating, garment-rending, and hunting for alternative RSS readers after Google killed Google Reader. Meanwhile, the rest of the world silently mouthed, “Do you know what Google Reader is? No?” to one another, and then went back to playing Candy Crush Saga.

  • Edward Snowden skunks the NSA In June, a bombshell dropped: Yes, the government was spying on us. “NSA,” “Prism,” and soon “Edward Snowden” dominated the headlines, as the patriot/traitor’s cache of documents made headlines almost daily. Tech giants were dragged in, too, as the Snowden documents allegedly revealed that companies such as Microsoft threw open their doors to the NSA (later hotly denied). Snowden lit out for Russia, where he currently resides. (Want to catch up? Here are our 170-plus stories on the subject.)

  • Elon Musk’s Hyperloop Elon Musk is an idea man—a brilliant, driven idea man, granted, but one who is just too busy. Reinventing a series of pneumatic tubes to transport people, rather than pieces of paper, is beyond him. It’s up to the little people—the politicians, the taxpayers, the low-level engineers—to make it happen. And somewhere, a small group of whiners is wondering why California couldn’t scrap its proposed high-speed rail system and build a hyperloop instead. (They’re equally practical, right?)

  • Microsoft caves on the Xbox One Gamers who sat through the launch announcement of the Xbox One could be forgiven if they wondered, “Hey, doesn’t this thing play games?” It does. But not Xbox 360 games. Or rented games. Or even resold games—at least, if early reports were to be believed. But after rival Sony laughed Microsoft out of the building, Microsoft hit the panic button, caving on everything from region restrictions to physically moving the box. Too bad the PlayStation 4 is expected to clean the Xbox One’s clock this holiday.

  • Jack Dorsey Superman. Spider-Man. Wolverine. And a pasty little nerd who apparently screwed over his coworkers on his way to the top. Meet Jack Dorsey, who as chief executive of Twitter and Square was immortalized in a comic book just months before Twitter’s IPO. Reporter Nick Bilton, however, dragged Dorsey’s reputation through the mud at what should have been his coronation as a tech titan. At least he and Mark Zuckerberg can compare notes.

  • Titstare and the brogrammer’s dilemma TechHive’s Amber Bouman said it best: Titstare. Circle Shake. Ghetto Tracker. Bryan Goldberg’s Bustle. The Badabing bikini app. Between Peter Shih doing for satire what Alanis Morissette did for irony, and Pax Dickinson living up to his name on his Twitter feed, startup douchebags emerged as a palpably loathsome presence this year. By the beginning of summer, it was almost impossible to follow industry news without feeling as if you were about to puke.

  • You know who likes phones, Samsung? Chicks It’s hard to know who deserves more ridicule: Samsung, which launched its Galaxy S4 smartphone as part of a bad ’50s-era Broadway show, or the righteous lady geeks who cried “Sexism!” and pounded out a million bitter words on the subject. Yes, the Galaxy S4 is excellent. And women should be treated with the respect afforded their male colleagues, full stop. But let’s take on the obvious targets before attacking the theater, okay?

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