It’s come to this again: 2018 has passed, making the dumpster fire that was 2017 look a bit more like the glory days. Last year ended with the government partially shut down and the market in a deep slide. Tech companies seemed out to outdo each other as cautionary tales, with some of 2017’s biggest losers extending their death rolls and some of the biggest players in the industry seeming to deliberately set themselves on fire.
So, once again it’s time to call out the Deathwatch. If you’re stumbling across Ars’ Deathwatch for the first time, this is not a prediction of the actual demise of companies or technologies. It takes a lot to actually erase a company or a technology from the face of the Earth these days. Even the worst ideas and businesses often linger on through inertia or get absorbed by some other company and metastasize in new and horrific ways—for example, Yahoo. (We’ll get to them soon enough.)
Instead, Deathwatch is our annual way of identifying those entities facing a different sort of danger: economic, cultural, or legal peril that could render a company irrelevant, inconsequential, or (in some cases) chum for legal and market sharks. Some organizations that have been put on Deathwatch have died a thousand deaths—take RadioShack, for example (a 2014 Deathwatch alumnus… which died a second time after a 2017 reboot). Others, such as BlackBerry, have persisted but have changed so much that they are no longer recognizable as the entities they once were. And then there are others that have so much runway in their death spiral that they could persist as a cautionary tale for decades to come.