Come reminisce over Twitter trash fires, Crypto crashes, metaverse malfunctions, and much, much more.
The world of technology is one of incredible advancements—but also, at times, spectacular failures. 2022 was no exception, with industry giants and start-ups alike suffering some serious setbacks. Billions of dollars and thousands of jobs were lost as a result of these crypto crashes, product goof-ups, and bad decisions. Here’s our list of the 10 most outrageous tech fails of the year.
Musk’s Twitter Buyout
This is a classic tale of a guy getting out over his skis. Upset at being fact-checked on Twitter, Elon Musk made an absurd offer to buy the company at an inflated price without performing due diligence. Twitter held him to it, and in October, Musk became the CEO and majority owner of the microblogging service. Since then, the app has been an absolute trash fire. Musk’s introduction of verified blue checkmarks for $8 subscribers led to a plague of trolls imitating celebrities and brands, causing chaos and advertisers pulling millions in spend. And Elon doesn’t seem to actually know much about his platform. Early on, he boasted that Twitter was the number-one driver of traffic in social, only to be humiliatingly corrected: Facebook is actually the social site that drives the most traffic, and Twitter isn’t even close. More recently, the site banned prominent journalists who Musk claimed were “doxxing” him (the accounts were quickly reinstated). On Tuesday, the new Twitter owner ran a poll on Twitter asking wether he should step down as a CEO, and the result was a resounding “yes.” Yesterday, Musk said he would be stepping down as soon as he found a replacement. Every day seemed to bring a new crisis.
Meta’s Worst Verse
Facebook is already one of the most reviled operations in the technosphere, but the company’s renaming to “Meta” and pivoting to the “Metaverse” brought it nothing but jeers in 2022. In an attempt to dominate what the company sees as the future of online interaction, it rolled out Horizon Worlds at the end of 2021; it lets users interact in a 3D virtual space and play a variety of games. Meta was shooting for half a million monthly users, but most recent reports have Horizon Worlds reliably drawing less than half that. The antiseptic visual design and lack of compelling features has Meta struggling to find an audience, and internal memos revealed that even its own employees can’t be bothered to spend much time there.
Stadia: Game Over
There’s no denying that Google—we’ll never get used to calling it Alphabet—is one of the most potent powerhouses of the modern computing age. But for every huge success, the company has a few fails. The most notorious in recent memory (since Google Glass, at least) was the shuttering of Google Stadia at the end of 2022. Stadia was the company’s big move into the cloud-gaming marketplace, in which the heavy computing happens on distant servers, and the visuals are streamed to TVs, computers, and phones. Nothing was technically wrong with the platform, but the game selection was second-rate, and people didn’t want to buy titles a second time just for Stadia. The shutdown was poorly handled as well, with some developers finding out that their games wouldn’t be released only when they read about it in the tech press.
Spotify’s Car Thing Crashes
Moving into hardware is a risky move for a tech company, as it involves significant capital layout to handle production, and that doesn’t always translate into sales. Music-streaming giant Spotify found that out the hard way in 2022 with the Car Thing. This dashboard accessory was launched for $90 in May. It promised drivers the ability to control their Spotify playback through voice commands and a chunky dial. But the Car Thing still required your phone to stream music, so it was basically just an extra step between your stereo and Spotify. Considering that the vast majority of cars come with Bluetooth or USB connectivity, the Car Thing seemed a few years too late to make an impact, and Spotify stopped manufacturing it in July.
Axie Infinity Hacked
The gold-standard project for NFT-enabled gaming at the start of the year was Axie Infinity, a popular Pokémon-style monster battler where players can earn in-game crypto. It quickly spun up an entire economy in which rich players were leasing their Axies to indentured servants in the Philippines for a share of their profits. But as with all crypto platforms, hackers were poking and prodding at it. In March, a North Korean group found an exploit in the Ronin blockchain that hosts the Axies. Before anybody noticed, the group managed to siphon $615 million from the system, leaving developer Sky Mavis scrambling to raise venture-capital money so it could continue to operate. This was another striking illustration of how fragile these operations can be.
Argo AI Goes Off the Road
The quest for self-driving cars has been a preoccupation for several sectors of the tech industry for over a decade. Automakers Ford and Volkswagen threw their investment behind Argo AI, founded in 2016 by veterans of Google and Uber’s self-driving programs. But navigating complex traffic systems is proving to be significantly harder than first thought. Even with over $3.5 billion of automaker money, Argo was unable to come through on its promised “Level 4” (completely autonomous or “mind off”) vehicles. After reporting a flabbergasting net loss of $827 million in the third quarter of the year, the company was disbanded. It’s possible that something might come of its technology one day, but not today.
Overwatch 2 Stumbles
Blizzard hit a home run with Overwatch, laying the foundation for a whole wave of hero shooters with lots of character and a bright, exciting visual design. So when the time came around for a sequel, expectations were very high. And then…they were dashed. When Overwatch 2 launched in October, players were met with terrifying queues of over 20,000 people before they could get into a game. And once they were there, the experience was a disappointment. The game felt equally like more of the same and a missed opportunity. Blizzard’s new additions to the formula—like pivoting to a battle pass system and cutting PVP to a 5v5 model—went over like a lead balloon, and the company has been frantically scrambling to fix things in the months since the game came out.
Terra Falls to Earth
There was no bigger tech story in 2022 than the crypto bubble bursting across the industry. Massive amounts of “wealth” was destroyed in idiotic ways, but one of the most stunning was the collapse of Terra. It’s a complex story with lots of moving parts, but the basic issue was this: TerraUSD was linked to the US dollar as a stablecoin but also offered a 20% return on investment through a platform called Anchor. So people were buying the coin just to throw it in Anchor, which could pay those returns only with more investments. Needless to say, a Ponzi scheme always collapses, and in May TerraUSD “lost its peg” to the dollar, causing market panic and massive selloffs. The coin lost 90% of its value in a week, causing the loss of $45 billion in market capitalization. It was a sterling example of just how fragile these systems are, but one that nobody seemed willing to learn from.