The end of an era: 8 programs that left us in 2013

They’ve gone. They’ve passed on. They are ex-programs, abandoned apps, and switched off servers. They are the famous fallen of 2013.

We honor them.

Software disappears for many reasons. Some fall victim to periodic spring cleaning, others stop development, as they’re no longer profitable, and yet more are bought only to be absorbed and stored in a drawer. When it comes to popular services, grieving users can number millions.

The fate of these applications is that they’re forgotten: unlike what happens with books and art, the software can disappear forever or become inaccessible if no one has preserved it in a digital archive. Abandonment is an undignified end for billions of lines of code that required years of intellectual effort.

Many of the applications that perished in 2013 had been our faithful companions for years, but disappeared in a flash. The impression left, however, lingers in our memory. Some of the applications and services that we talk about below are unlikely to be forgotten.

The great Winamp (almost) breathed its last MP3

It was the first player many of us had, and although it was abandoned en masse after the disastrous version 3, Winamp played on in the hearts of many. Aol decided to pull the plug on 21 November 2013. But Radionomy saved Winamp in January.

Winamp almost closed in 2013

Google Talk was replaced by Hangouts

Talk, one of the most simple and practical messaging applications in history, was replaced by Hangouts, which is much more comprehensive – and complex. Meebo, the mythical multi-protocol chat service which ran on the browser, closed too.

Google Talk became Hangouts

AltaVista searched for the last time

One of the legendary nineties’ search engines fell victim to the Big Clean Up that Yahoo! launched in 2013. And so it was that Marissa Mayer toppled a first class name of the internet, a search engine that, until 2001, still had more traffic than Google. A real shame.

Altavista

Lavabit was forced to close its doors

The NSA scandal, one of the big news items of 2013, brought quite a few memorable disappearances. The most talked about was Lavabit secure mail, which, under pressure from the United States’ government, decided to end its service. Obviously now it’s super secure.

Lavabit shutdown

Symbian was abandoned by Nokia

With the purchase of the Nokia mobile business by Microsoft, Symbian was robbed of any hope of surviving. While Nokia focuses exclusively on Windows Phone, a strategy that is working well, Symbian languishes and dies.

Symbian

The old Yahoo! design almost completely disappeared

Marissa Mayer, new CEO of Yahoo! in 2013, not only made acquisitions and closed products, but also changed the classic design of Yahoo!, starting with its logo. It’s been noticed most in the Yahoo! mail: and users haven’t been happy…

Yahoo! logo

Google Reader was sacrificed to boost G+

Although in the end it wasn’t for nothing, the disappearance of a product of such excellent workmanship like Reader did not leave anyone indifferent: it was a functional news reader without any real rivals. The good thing is that its death has prompted a range of very valid alternatives.

Google Reader shutdown

Windows Live Messenger gave way to Skype

Some programs that die when their network dies. In 2013, it was Messenger’s turn, as its network was progressively closed by Microsoft, forcing millions of users to migrate to Skype, the messaging and calls application that had been bought by Microsoft the previous year.

Windows Live Messenger closes for Skype

But don’t be sad, sometimes they come back to life

Sometimes programs can be raised from the dead. For example, a petition to have the source code of Winamp released started shortly after news of the shutdown became public.

Winamp

Elsewhere, in one of the strangest episodes of 2013, we saw Adobe release the Adobe CS2 suite free on their website. It turned out to be an unfortunate mistake, but it showed that software authors, if they want, can resurrect a program.

Did any of your favorite software disappear in 2013?

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