Another one bites the dust: Springpad says farewell

Every once in a while, I find myself writing an obituary for yet another product -- usually cloud-based -- that is readying itself to disappear.

Back in 2010, I wrote an enthusiastic review of a cloud storage service called ZumoDrive, which I felt synced files more neatly and easily than the more popular Dropbox. ZumoDrive may have been a neat idea, but it didn't last; it shut down in June, 2012.

In fact, 2012 seemed to be a bad year for cloud apps: In March, the users of an online blogging/website service called Posterous were told to move along, nothing to see here anymore. In July, Google announced it would retire its home-page portal iGoogle, much to the dismay of its fans. Google wasn't finished: In March 2013, the Google Reader news service went away, passing its users to Feedly and other companies happy to pick up the slack.

Time marches on, and the latest consumer cloud service to close is Springpad, a cloud-based notetaking app that is shutting its doors on June 25th.

I first reviewed Springpad back in March, 2011; at the time, I concluded that it and its rival Evernote were actually not in competition; that each collected user data in a different manner, and therefore were useable for different reasons. I especially liked the way Springpad formatted different categories of info and how it pulled in additional data from the Internet about, say, the book you had just read or the video you wanted to see.

About a year later, Springpad revamped its user interface and functionality, adding a crowd-sourcing element in a further attempt to distinguish itself from Evernote. Apparently, that didn't work. According to its published statement, "Unfortunately, we were not able to secure additional funding or scale to become a self-sustaining business." It goes on to say that some of its team members will be joining Google.

Springpad users now have until June 25th to export their data, either to Evernote -- which, according to Springpad, has lifted its upload limit for the occasion -- or to HTML and JSON files. Springpad has provided full instructions and an export tool.

It's not as though computer software products haven't appeared and disappeared since the first desktops starting appearing on hobbyists' desks. But the difference today is that, while fans of past software products could continue to use them, sometimes for years after the code disappeared from both virtual and literal shelves, users of cloud-based products don't have that choice. Once the service is gone, it's completely gone. And while there's not a lot that can be done about it, it's regrettable.

Meanwhile, I wish those involved in Springpad -- and all those developers and entrepreneurs who have an idea that they're sure will succeed, and who don't quite get there -- the best of luck in the next round.

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