Sure, Ubuntu is a nice enough platform, but it hasn't moved Linux's desktop numbers one bit because it hasn't changed the main weakness desktop Linux has always faced: It's not about the OS. It's about the mainstream applications, which Linux has never had. The few hundred folks actively using Ubuntu at a consumer level simply weren't enough to keep Ubuntu One viable. Splat.
Canonical isn't alone. Other Silicon Valley startups recently considered shoo-ins for massive market impact are starting to get shaky. Jelly looks like it's headed toward a dirt nap. Clinkle appears staffed by preschoolers. No one knows what Klout is doing. People are wondering about bright predictions for Box, which is still operating at a $186 million loss, despite $124 million in recent earnings. And, of course, you may recall the game-changing, we-don't-need-no-regulation bitcoin debacle.
The money madness has certainly taken hold. Hundreds of millions and double-digit billions in IPO and buyout deals are fairly common, spent on radical innovations like text chat, community sites, and photo sharing. You know -- unprecedented snowflakes with unlimited potential that will someday change the way we all surf, live, learn, and sniff glue.
Secret is out
Then there's the current app darling, Secret. Back in the day, the fourth horseman of the dot-com apocalypse was F@#%edCompany.com. The website was devoted to dot-com employees complaining of outrageous behavior from founders who thought they were Steve Jobs or Nikola Tesla and believed their own crazy business plans and valuation math. To prove it, they even leaked the internal memos, surreptitious photos, and documents. Near the very end, I remember a series of pages listing all the dot-coms that were dwindling faster than goodwill on an Obama-Putin courtesy call.
Secret's turning into the same thing, but using chat as a medium. On Secret, you'll find developers complaining that they don't believe in what they're doing; that their bosses combine the managerial skills of Saddam Hussein with the drug intake of Courtney Love; and that they wake up every morning contemplating suicide by self-immolation rather than going to work. Watch the video interview of Rap Genius co-headcase, Mahbod Moghadam, and you'll not only witness the downside of legalized weed, but also early writing on the wall: The end is near.
I hope the bubble floats for as long as possible. Sure, it's spawning truly nerve-grating, know-nothing startup execs who are so groundlessly arrogant they make me cry blood, but it's also moving cloud, social, and software modality forward, while keeping NSA hackers and civil liberties lawyers employed. We've all experienced it before, and it's a long-standing law of nature: What goes up must come down. Just ask Sheryl Sandberg, who's already sold half of her Facebook stake.
I'm old, cynical, and obviously a cup-half-empty kind of guy, so maybe I'm ringing the alarm bell a little early, but I don't think so. It's coming and it's going to hurt as much as or more than last time.
This article, "Canonical and Secret: The dot-com bubble springs two slow leaks," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, follow Cringely on Twitter, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.