All is not well - but it isn't real bad either

December 12, 2008 // Tagged in: I Want Sandy, PingMe, Pownce, Six Apart, Soup.io, twitter, Values of n

For someone who’s been signing up for web-services for the last couple of years, it’s nothing new to receive notice that one of those services has gone, as Google would put it, the way of the dinosaur.

And most of the time, it’s a natural thing. If a service is unpopular, lacks originality or simply function, it’ll be closed down sooner or later. Just check out the TechCrunch deadpool.

But what about services that thrive, are popular but are shut down nonetheless? For example, I Want Sandy, which was a very innovative productivity tool. The company that created it, headed by Rael Dornfest, was bought out by Twitter. And since Twitter was only interested in Dornfest’s mind and not the matter he had created, it was decided to shut Sandy and its base service Stikkitdown.

Now, I personally think it’s a rotten thing to do. Sure, it’s a great career move I guess, but how much would it have cost Twitter to keep a server with I Want Sandy and someone who once in a while looks after that server? For a service that is getting funding in the millions, that shouldn’t pose that much of an obstacle, now should it?

And apart from the individual implications, I feel that moves like that will also greatly hurt the adoption of new small-scale web-services. It takes faith to really start using a web-service, to feed it with your data and your time. Shutting the door right in your user’s face is not going to sit well with most of them. And they are going to remember it.

If people would have known one year ago, that Sandy or Stikkit were mere testbeds for Dornfest’s ideas, they wouldn’t have opted for using it as extensively as they did.

And a very similar thing happened to Pownce recently. It was bought by Six Apart, and again, the only thing they cared about were the two main developers. Pownce will be shut down in a few days, and all the people who came to like it (admittedly, they’re not that great in number) will have to deal with it and move on.

Again, it’s probably a splendid career move for the developers, but it gives small web-services a bad rep. In the future, disappointed ex-users will think twice before trusting small web-services again. Instead, they’ll always opt for similar services created by one of the big players like Google, Yahoo! or Microsoft.

But seeing how I’m a generally positive person, I won’t leave you with this bleak forecast. Instead, I’ll show you how the Internets are fast-paced enough to latch onto unfortunate events like the one above and turn them into cuddly, little feelgood-stories ready for the closing seconds of a Fox newscast.

When Pownce announced that it would close doors, the good people at Soup.io didn’t hesitate for a second and created a very elegant tool that lets Pownce users import their accounts right into Soup. So Soup, which has functionality that greatly exceeds anything Pownce ever offered anyway, not only helped the poor souls stranded after the Pownce closing, but also added a whole bunch of new, happy people to their user-base.

And when it comes to the shutdown of I Want Sandy, a couple of things happened. A similar service, Zetetic’s PingMe, put up a primer on how to most effectively switch from Sandy to their service. And a couple of die-hard Sandy-fans actually started an open-source project that should sooner or later reproduce the functionality of Sandy.

Maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe the looming recession will kill off all services that don’t have a few millions stashed under their pillows anyway, but until then, it would be wise not to piss off and abandon your users when a bit of effort could ensure their everlasting gratitude and undying love.