Back in early 2014 the tech world couldn’t get enough of Secret, the anonymous social networking app that quickly became a hotbed of industry gossip. But by the end of the year, faced by competitors like Whisper and Yik Yak, it seemed Secret was going through something of an identity crisis. In 2015, it took its last breath when founder David Byttow announced that the startup, which had raised $35 million in funding, was shutting down.
His rationale was that anonymity online is “the ultimate double-edged sword, which must be wielded with great respect and care.” In other words, when social networks are anonymous, people are jerks. We might just be better off without yet another tool for trolling each other.
In 2015, the on-demand economy got hit hard by worker classification lawsuits arguing that the drivers, cleaners, and personal shoppers that keep all those companies running ought to be classified as employees, not independent contractors. Homejoy, an on-demand cleaning service startup, was among those sued. Unlike richer contemporaries like Uber [backed by Sequoia Capital], Homejoy couldn’t handle the potential liability and shut down in July.
The company’s failure also revealed the challenges on-demand startups face when they try to force growth. In order to expand its customer base, Homejoy offered its services to first-time customers at dirt-cheap prices, making it next to impossible to retain those customers later on.
It’s been a bittersweet year for Twitter. On the one hand, 2015 saw the return of Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s founder, as its new CEO, as well as the debut of Moments, a new feature that’s turning out to be a pretty useful way of navigating Twitter’s firehose of information. On the other hand, Dorsey’s return was accompanied by a big round of layoffs. Before that, Twitter was awash in criticism over former CEO Dick Costolo’s failure to produce the user growth that other competitors like Facebook have enjoyed.
In August, Twitter shares dropped below their IPO price, a response to its second quarter earnings report. All the while, the company has struggled to contain the rampant and dangerous abuse that takes place on the platform. We’re not counting Twitter out yet, but Dorsey certainly has a busy year ahead of him in 2016.