The Tech That Died in 2021

It was fun while it lasted

Key Takeaways

  • Some of the tech we said goodbye to this year include LG Pay, the Houseparty app, the original Apple HomePod, and more. 
  • Tech like Locast and Yahoo Answers left a standing legacy and impact for users and history alike. 
  • Experts attribute the demise of tech to an ever-changing evolution of their respective markets.
Closeup on a headstone that says "In Memoriam."

whitemay / Getty Images

Looking back on 2021, we saw many significant changes over the year, including changes in technology and the devices we use in our daily lives. 

While we said hello to plenty of tech—such as Apple AirTags, Google Pixel 6, or the Microsoft Surface Pro 8—we also had to say goodbye to some tech many of us have come to know and love. 

Experts say the discontinuation of a platform, app, or device doesn’t necessarily mean they were a failure, but more so a product of an evolving market they no longer could serve. So here are some of the most significant tech losses of 2021 to bid a fond farewell.

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Yahoo Answers

Perhaps the most nostalgic goodbye we had to say in 2021 was Yahoo Answers. In April, it was announced that after 15 years of providing the internet with endless humor and the answers to our burning questions, Yahoo Answers would officially shut down on May 4. 

Yahoo Answers provided an entire generation with a sense of community through shared questions. At its core, Yahoo Answers helped people find solutions to their problems or questions, whether it was finding out how to work a lawnmower or more of the now-viral questions like "What happen when get pergenat?" or "How do you make a weeji board?" 

However, since it required no expertise to use it, Yahoo Answers often led to ignorance and misinformation. Before cyberbullying and trolling were even coined terms, Yahoo Answers was one of the first online spaces to allow them to happen, paving the way for online bullies to thrive.

Still, experts say the death of Yahoo Answers signals how important it is to preserve internet history. Ian Milligan, an associate professor of history at the University of Waterloo who focuses on how historians can use web archives, told Lifewire over the phone that the failure to preserve the entire site shows just how unguarded the history of the internet really is. 

Someone wearing a Yahoo! Answers t-shirt.

Stephen Lovekin / Getty Images

"It just shows how vulnerable that sort of our personal memory is. And I think it suggests that these platforms aren't going to be here forever," he said. 

"In a dream world, it would be great when something big that's being maintained by a community is going down, to not only give lots of notice but actively work with organizations like the Internet Archive to make sure it can be preserved."

Milligan said forum platforms like Yahoo Answers, Reddit, and Quora are especially important to preserve internet history since they are so community-driven. 

"Forum posts are awesome because their voices are from everyday people. If we're learning about how people understood 911 as it happened, it's good to read about it in The New York Times, but it's really interesting to read about what people in suburban Kansas City were thinking about the event to see how they made sense of it on a discussion board," he added. 

While only some of Yahoo Answers were preserved by the Internet Archive, we still have some viral YouTube videos to remind us of the sometimes ridiculous and never boring human curiosity that occurred on the site.

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LG Pay

LG's form of a digital wallet was officially shut down in November after only three years in existence. LG Pay used Wireless Magnetic Communication so you didn't have to use your physical credit card to pay, and even had LG PayQuick so users could simply swipe up from the bottom of the phone screen for quick and secure payments. 

Ultimately, the service never became as popular as other digital wallet services like Apple Pay and Google Pay, which both still exist. 

LG's movement away from LG Pay makes sense, too. In April, the company announced it would stop making smartphones to instead focus on "electric vehicle components, connected devices, smart homes, robotics, artificial intelligence, and business-to-business solutions, as well as platforms and services."

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After only a little over two years of existence, Locast was discontinued in 2021 after losing a legal battle in September with the big four broadcasters suing the company over copyright laws: ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC. 

Locast enabled TV viewers to receive local over-the-air programming using set-top boxes, smartphones, or other devices of their choice, all at a much lower price. It was America's only nonprofit, free, local broadcast TV digital translator service. 

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) called the court's decision to discontinue operations "a blow to millions of people who rely on local television broadcasts." Mitch Stoltz, a senior staff attorney at EFF who joined the legal team defending Locast, told Lifewire that Locast's focus on local news was essential to so many viewers. 

The view of two newscaster from standing behind a video camera.

Grafissimo / Getty Images

"Many people reached out to us saying they wouldn't have had access to local news stations or emergency alerts had it not been for Locast," he told Lifewire over the phone. 

Earlier this year, the service surpassed 2.3 million users, making it one of the fastest-growing live TV app services at the time. Unfortunately, it was ultimately forced to be shut down despite experts like Stoltz saying that it operated legally under the Copyright Act of 1976, allowing nonprofit services to rebroadcast local stations without needing a copyright license from the broadcaster.

Stoltz said he hopes Locast's situation and untimely demise highlight a problem that needs to be solved in the television industry. 

"The problem remains that broadcasters keep using copyright law to control where and how people can access the local TV that they're supposed to be getting for free," he said. 

While the end of Locast might have been a blow to users, experts like Phillip Swann, author of TV Dotcom: The Future of Interactive Television, said the service was always ill-fated. 

"The narrative that somehow streaming was going to be a wonderful paradise of cheaper prices and easier service is incorrect," Swann told Lifewire over the phone. 

"That's basically the lesson here: that there are no freebies in television, whether it's streaming or legacy TV."

Swann said he predicts streaming will ultimately take over cable TV in 10-15 years and that there will be plenty more copy-cats of Locast in that time. 

"There will surely be another company who tried what Locast did, but it'll fail," he said.

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Original Apple HomePod

Even Apple products don’t always make it, and in March, the tech giant announced it would discontinue the original Apple HomePod after four years on the market. 

According to TechCrunch, the original Apple HomePod took the company five years to develop and has a booming sound as far as smart home speakers go. However, some critics pointed to its high price tag, which at $349 was much higher than any other smart speaker on the market. 

Apple HomePods


Ultimately, the Apple HomePod mini became the more popular option for consumers (probably because of the lower price and more fun color options). 

But don’t fret: if you still have an original Apple HomePod, Apple said it would continue to provide support for existing devices.

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Google Hangouts

More of a transition than a real tech death, Google phased out Hangouts this year in favor of Google Chat. As of October, the Classic Hangouts vanished and all users were migrated over to Google Chat. 

Hangouts first debuted on Google in 2013 and featured instant messaging and video calls. Even though Hangouts had unique features like direct and group messaging, Google Chat has helpful additions like sending a message directly to your inbox, faster search, emoji reactions, and suggested replies. 

So, rather than thinking of the phase-out of Google Hangouts as a goodbye, think of it as an upgrade to your overall messaging experience on Google.

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Houseparty App

As a sure-fire sign that the stay-at-home struggles of 2020 were behind us, the app that got us through the first year of the pandemic shut down in October

While Houseparty was originally launched in 2016, it rose to mass popularity in 2020 thanks to the stay-at-home orders that left us having to contact others through video apps. Forbes reports that the app was downloaded 17.2 million times in March 2020, compared to a mere 500,000 times in August of this year. 

Someone wearing headphones while participating in a web conference meeting.

Morsa Images / Getty Images

The app became almost an overnight sensation in the early days of the pandemic since it allowed you to video chat with friends and family while offering unique features at the time, like in-app games or the ability to watch TV shows together. 

Eventually, as the world shifted to working and having social gatherings remote, so too grew the technologies that catered to that new normal, and Houseparty lost its luster. Especially in 2021, which was more 'normal' than 2020, the app had all but become a faint memory of the early pandemic days.

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