IBM to shutter dataviz pioneer Many Eyes

Closing announcement on Many Eyes

Closing announcement on the Many Eyes website.

Credit: Screenshot by Sharon Machlis of IBM's Many Eyes website

IBM will close its Many Eyes collaborative data visualization service on June 12, according to a notice posted on the Many Eyes website.

No further details were offered, besides an apology for "any inconvenience this may cause."

I just put in a call to IBM and await more details on why the service is closing. Until then, some speculation. . . . It's possible that IBM would like to consolidate cloud-based visualizations to its new Watson Analytics offering. Or, perhaps IBM has determined there's no longer much value in supporting a community service like Many Eyes in a world where there are numerous Web-based dataviz options.

Cloud-based dataviz services come and go these days, but that wasn't the case back when Many Eyes launched in 2007. The service promised what IBM called a new democratization of visualization, by allowing pretty much anyone to easily upload, visualize and share their data. Easily was the key: It may be hard to remember now just 8 years later, but being able to upload data and create an interactive, shareable Web visualization with a couple of clicks was a pretty novel idea at the time.

Two of the researchers who led the Many Eyes effort at IBM, Fernanda Viégas and Martin Wattenberg, later left to form their own company and then joined Google in 2010.

The Many Eyes site was left somewhat untended for awhile after corporate funding for the development project ended, but Many Eyes was "brought out of hibernation" in 2013 with a significant redesign and some new capabilities, according to an IBM blog post by Frank Van Ham, an information and visualization interaction expert at IBM Cognos. That appears to have extended the site's life for 2 years but no longer.

During its lifespan, Many Eyes was used by "tens of thousands of people," Ham said.

It appears those users won't be doing so for much longer. And if you want to save any data from the site, you'd be advised to do so before next Friday.

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