Facebook misfires: Weird apps and experiments that never took off

Facebook Launches Notify App for News
Facebook Launches Notify App for News

Today, Facebook launched Notify, an iPhone app that sends news alerts to your phone's homescreen.

It's the latest in a long line of experiments from the company that orders employees to "Move Fast and Break Things."

Some of these experiments have been spectacularly successful — like Facebook Messenger, which took Facebook's messaging platform and broke it out into a separate mobile app back in 2011, and now has more than 700 million users.

Others, not so much...

The Facebook Phone. For years, Facebook was rumored to be building a phone based on its own fork of Android. The final result, the HTC First, was simply an inexpensive Android phone with Facebook's "Home" — an Android lock screen and app launcher that favored Facebook services. It was quickly discontinued.

William Wei, Business Insider

The Facebook Home interface also failed to gain traction, and the Facebook Home web site has quietly disappeared.

Owen Thomas, Business Insider

Facebook Beacon was part of a broader Facebook advertising system that was meant to track users between third-party sites to let Facebook target ads more accurately. Privacy zealots freaked out and Facebook retreated, although now ad retargeting is pretty standard across the industry, and Facebook has since come up with other methods of increasing ad effectiveness with additional data, like Facebook Custom Audiences.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg At IIT Delhi
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg At IIT Delhi

Facebook Credits was a virtual currency for buying products within Facebook games. Facebook tested it starting in 2009, and in 2011 announced that developers would have to use Credits to process in-game payments starting in July. A year later, it scrapped the product.

Illustration: Ellis Hamburger

Facebook introduced email addresses in 2010 as part of an overhaul of its messaging system. Everybody on Facebook could use a new @facebook.com address. The company killed it in 2014.

Facebook Camera was introduced in May 2012 as a quick and easy way to upload photos and scroll through friends' photos on iOS. But Facbook quickly realized that Instagram, which it had bought for $1 billion, accomplished more or less the same thing, and quietly pulled the app in 2014.

Facebook / YouTube

Facebook Poke, released in December 2012, was the company's first app to try and take on Snapchat. A year later, Mark Zuckerberg told Businessweek that the app was just something the company hacked together as "more of a joke," and it was pulled in May 2014.

Slingshot launched in summer 2014 as Facebook's second attempt to compete with Snapchat, the fast-growing temporary picture sharing app. It's still around, but not exactly burning up the world — the latest charts by AppAnnie show that it's not in the top 1000 most popular apps for iPhone or Android.

Business Insider

In 2010, Facebook launched Deals, a product a little bit like the original Foursquare that allowed local businesses to post deals when a customer would check into their establishment on the site. Despite having big name brands like Gap, Starbucks, Macy's, JCPenney, and American Eagle Outfitters, the online coupon service fell flat and was shut down soon after its launch.

AP/Suzanne Plunkett

Facebook's Gifts marketplace was a place for buying gift cards for businesses like Starbucks and iTunes. The social media site decided to shut it down in 2014 to focus on its buy button and commerce platform.

Facebook thought it could harness the power of its loyal followers to take on Quora. It was wrong. The Questions Dashboard gave users the option to share a poll to the news feed, but it was removed in 2012.


Facebook Rooms came out in October 2014 and was the first Facebook app that didn't require you to use your real name. It lets you scan a QR code to discuss something in a topic-specific room. Its US popularity peaked around number 80 in the App Store according to App Annie, and now sits down in the 800s somewhere.


Facebook Hello is a free Android dialer app that helps users figure out who's calling them and block the call if necessary. It's only been around since April, and Facebook says it's still in beta testing, but whatever the reason it hasn't taken off yet. Right now, it's ranked number 206 in the Google Play Store according to AppAnnie.


Facebook Riff came out on April Fools' Day this year, and gave people a way to make a funny video on their phone. It isn't even in the top 1000 apps in the App Store now, according to App Annie.


Launched in 2014, Facebook Paper is a news reader app that allowed users to explore and share stories. The app is still around but only doing so-so by Facebook standards — it's currently ranked number 71 among the most popular iPhone apps by AppAnnie.

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