2023 was supposed to be a year of innovation and progress for the tech industry. But between high-profile failures, discontinuations of beloved products, and controversies around new technologies like AI, this year turned out to be more of an annus horribilis for big tech.
Major Companies Falter
Some of the biggest names in tech did not perform well this year. Meta in particular faced a series of setbacks, from declining user growth to problems with its metaverse investments.
As reported by Business Insider and Engadget, Meta’s stock dropped an incredible 70% over the course of 2023. This wiped out hundreds of billions in market value. While Meta is unlikely to disappear, its meteoric growth from the 2010s has clearly stalled out.
Other tech titans like Netflix, Snap, and Intel also posted disappointing results this year per Business Insider’s analysis. Netflix struggled to retain subscribers in an increasingly competitive streaming market. Snap couldn’t effectively monetize its Snapchat app. And Intel failed to keep pace with competitors in the crucial semiconductor market.
|Issue in 2023
|Slowing revenue/user growth, metaverse struggles
|Subscriber loss, rising competition
|Failure to monetize users
|Lagging behind in semiconductors
The poor performance of these leading tech firms indicates growing pains for the industry as a whole. The breakneck growth that defined the 2010s does not appear repeatable forever. And new technologies like the metaverse seem to be struggling to gain traction.
Beloved Products Discontinued
In addition to company-wide struggles, a number of once-popular tech products were discontinued in 2023. As reported by Indian Express, Salon, BNN Breaking News, and others, services like Stadia, Cortana, and Fritter were all shut down this year after failing to find sufficient users.
Gaming streaming service Stadia in particular had a short, unhappy life. Launched in 2019 by Google, it was positioned to be the Netflix of gaming. But it never caught on with a large enough customer base and Google pulled the plug in early 2023.
Microsoft likewise gave up on its Cortana digital assistant this year. Cortana was built to compete with Siri and Alexa but never achieved comparable popularity or functionality. Its looming shutdown is symbolic of Microsoft’s failed efforts to compete in consumer hardware outside of Xbox.
Fritter, a short-form audio app that hoped to mimic Substack’s success in newsletters, also shut down after less than two years. Its failure highlights the enduring network effects and lock-in of social media leaders like Twitter. Breaking in as a new social network remains incredibly difficult.
These products join a long list of previously popular services like Google Reader, Vine, Google Plus and AOL Instant Messenger in the tech graveyard. In an industry known for its breakneck pace, the demise of once-hot products is nothing new. But the number of high-profile shutdowns in 2023 still marks a depressing year for the sector.
Emerging technologies also had their share of controversy in 2023. Most notably, chatbots like ChatGPT and image generators like DALL-E 2 raised concerns about misinformation, bias and legal compliance.
As reported by Trusted Reviews and others, while these AI tools demonstrated impressive new capabilities, they also propagated harmful stereotypes in some outputs. And their ability to generate deceptive text and imagery raised red flags about potential misuse.
This caused some tech companies to rein in elements of their new AI. Both Meta and Microsoft limited access to some AI features until better guardrails could be established. And Google postponed the launch of some AI products entirely out of concerns about quality control.
While AI promises innovative new applications, it remains an emerging technology in need of refinement. The incidents of 2023 served as an important reminder that new technologies require diligent monitoring even after launch to account for failure modes that may not have shown up in testing.
What Happens Next?
After a rocky 2023, the tech industry will be looking for a reset in 2024. But this will require addressing some tough questions.
For internet platforms like Meta, building the next generation of social interaction online continues to prove difficult. Meta’s steep stock decline highlights skepticism about the future promise of areas like the metaverse. Other companies may need to pare back their own exploratory bets in 2024 if progress remains elusive.
Giants like Microsoft and Google will need to take their lumps from AI missteps and continue working to enhance oversight of new technologies before they are consumer-ready. Identifying technical blindspots pre-launch will be key to avoiding future PR crises.
And early-stage startups will need to carefully evaluate niche-use cases before jumping into new apps, as the demise of services like Stadia and Fritter shows. Outsized optimism cannot sustain a product alone; small user bases spell fast failure.
For the tech industry as a whole, 2023 forced some humility after an exceptionally strong decade of growth and influence expansion. Going into 2024, technology companies will need to match ambitions with skeptical measurement of real market demand. Otherwise, consumers will continue to rapidly jump ship from underperforming innovations.
After a notable number of stumbles this year, the tech sector will have the opportunity for introspection and self-correction. Whether 2024 proves a comeback year depends greatly on how willing leading companies are to question their own assumptions in response to this annus horribilis. The fundamentals remain in place for technology to enhance lives. But restraint may now be required before the next period of sustainable growth can begin.
To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.