For every awesome gadget and mind-blowing AI breakthrough we got in 2018, there was a busted product, slimy scandal or dangerous data breach that made us wish we'd just go analog.
Spoiler alert: Facebook takes top honors on our list of fails this year, due to a string of controversies and privacy blunders that even had some of us deleting our accounts.
But we also saw plenty of other mishaps big and small from across the tech sphere, from Amazon crashing on Prime Day and Google+ biting the bullet to disappointing gaming duds like the PlayStation Classic and Fallout 76. Here are the biggest — and worst — tech fails of 2018.
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Fallout 76 had all the signs of becoming a radioactive hit. Imagine a Fallout game that has multiplayer, base building mechanics and the ability to launch nuclear strikes at your rivals. What we ended up with was an average survival game with a Fallout aesthetic. The rocky launch with bugs bigger than radroaches required a number of major postlaunch updates. The world left folks in a lonely wasteland only populated by a few dozen players with no real story outside a few audio logs and no NPCs or quest givers to chat. The reality of Fallout 76 fell short of the expectation fans had set when it was announced last summer. — Jorge Jimenez
Apple first teased AirPower in September 2017 — more than a year ago! — with all signs and portents suggesting the Qi-based wireless charging mat would arrive sometime in early 2018 to let you charge multiple Apple devices at once without any pesky cables cluttering things up. Multiple Apple product launches have happened since then, and each time, AirPower has been noticeably absent. Even more telling, we haven't heard a peep from Apple to even suggest that AirPower is anything more than a vague memory.
So, what's been the problem? With nothing official to go on, it's anybody's guess, but the speculation from Apple watchers is that the charging mat features a multicoil design that gets much too hot, impacting charging rates. Apple could still surprise us with a functioning product in early 2019, or it could slap the name on another charging accessory. But it's a rare misstep from a company that usually doesn't tip its hand about upcoming product until it knows it can deliver the goods. — Philip Michaels
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Scooter startups aim to fill in the gaps for short trips that wouldn't make sense to take in a car or on a bike. Using an app, riders can find nearby scooters and use their phones to unlock them. It's easy, quick — and best of all — cheap. But riders aren't required to dock their scooters; instead, you can leave them pretty much anywhere as long as it's not creating a hazard for others. Piles of scooters are plaguing cities — San Francisco even banned them outright back in June to clear the streets. (Scoot and Skip have since been permitted by the city.)
And hospital emergency rooms in major metropolitan areas have seen an uptick in scooter-related injuries since scooters began flooding the streets.
But are scooters here to stay? With Uber and Lyft in the process of rolling out their own fleets of scooters, 2019 could be an even bigger — and perhaps more problematic — year for transportation. — Caitlin McGarry
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Microsoft's Windows 10 October 2018 Update seemed like a promising update that would improve productivity on Windows machines. The problem is, it was pulled and then re-released in November, and then re-re-released again in December due to myriad issues that users ran into.
Any software update is bound to have some bugs, but nothing as alarming as what users were reporting: Up to 220GB worth of data had vanished from their hard drives. There were also reports that ZIP functions weren't prompting people with a choice to overwrite files, leading to files that would automatically delete everything in the folder that had the same name. Microsoft even has a dedicated support page cataloging all of these issues, some of which are still ongoing. — Rami Tabari
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MoviePass was always too good to be true. The subscription-based movie-ticketing app charged $9.95 a month for customers to see a movie a day at a variety of theaters across the country. In New York City, where the average ticket price hovers around $16, the prospect of seeing every single movie I wanted to for less than $10 a month sent me running to sign up.
But MoviePass' business model was unsustainable. People were actually using their passes to see multiple movies a month, and MoviePass' parent company began tweaking features and pricing over the summer to stem the hemorrhaging. Suddenly, I found I could only see two-week-old films at matinees — every new release was either unavailable or could only be seen by paying an extra fee on top of the subscription price. I quit.
In December, MoviePass rolled out its likeliest plan for success: a three-tier pricing system that allows you to see three movies per month. The cheapest $9.95 option limits what movies you can see and when, while a pricier $24.95 plan lets you see IMAX and 3D films. It's unclear if MoviePass can ramp back up after its crash, but at least the company's crazy idea spurred movie theater chains to reconsider their own pricing. — Caitlin McGarry
YouTube has a lot of problems. It doesn't pay creators fairly; it has no idea how to manage copyrighted content; and it can't moderate kids' programming to save its life. But rather than address any of those issues, in 2018, YouTube actually doubled down on rewarding its least ethical users.
As you're probably aware, YouTube has fostered a cottage industry of racist, sexist, homophobic hate-mongers, whose passionate fan bases and ability to game algorithms have earned them hundreds, thousands or even millions of viewers. White nationalists, neo-Nazis and conspiracy theorists have discovered that YouTube is fertile soil for new recruits, and it's not always easy to tell where general-interest programming stops and hatred begins. Take, for example, game-streamer's PewDiePie enthusiastic praise for an anti-Semitic colleague — or his own anti-Semitic stunts last year.
While expecting YouTube to root out every last bigot is both unrealistic and unreasonable, it could at least try to make its platform a little more welcoming rather than just shrug its shoulders and watch the money roll in. — Marshall Honorof
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Telltale Games, creators of such hit adventure game franchises as The Walking Dead and Minecraft: Story Mode, seemed like the kind of studio that should be thriving. But after years of well-documented mismanagement, the studio announced in September 2018 that it was suddenly shutting down and filing for bankruptcy.
This was a bummer for fans awaiting the next chapter in the just-launched The Walking Dead: The Final Season, but far worse for the hundreds of employees that Telltale let go — some of whom had joined the studio just days before —with no warning or severance. Skybound Games eventually took over The Walking Dead project and even hired many former Telltale employees to finish the season, but Telltale's clear disregard for its employees left a major stain on the industry. In a year filled with stories about studio turmoil (we're looking at you, Riot and Rockstar), it's sad to see such a beloved game maker go out in the worst way possible. — Mike Andronico