The Loneliness of the Early Adopter

By  |  Friday, January 30, 2009 at 9:24 am

I’m an Early Adopter. I like to be among the first to try out new products and services. If you were looking for me on the Rogers Technology Adoption Lifecycle—the bell-shaped curve that’s a favorite of product managers—you’d find me on left side of the curve, just after the truly courageous Innovators but before the onset of the rabble of the Early Majority. (Image below from Wikipedia.)

Rogers Curve

Being an early adopter means that sometimes I’ve been left in the lurch when a product or service I adopted early failed or was pulled inexplicably from the market. Were you also a user of Pownce, Yahoo Photos, or Google Notebook? Everything has a natural lifecycle, of course, and I have to expect that some of the products I (perhaps too eagerly) embraced will not survive. Since I’m an early adopter, I’m likely to see more products and services fail than other people, who are a bit more conservative and are located farther to the right on the Rogers curve, maybe in Late Majority or even Laggards.

Recently, however, we’ve seen some products seemingly abandoned by their creators. These vendors have just stopped talking to their customers. As you might guess, this is a bad sign. I compare this to a relationship. Early on, your boyfriend or girlfriend tells you everything about themselves—what they like to eat, their favorite songs, their dreams and the minutiae of their daily lives. Later, if things aren’t working out, you’re lucky to hear if they decide not to show up for a date.

I eagerly purchased the Dash Express last year, an innovative device and service that brought two-way Internet connectivity with live traffic reporting to mobile GPS. Recently however, Dash announced it was discontinuing sales of the Dash Express device to concentrate on licensing their application and service to unnamed device manufacturers. The last post on their blog is dated November 3, 2008. There’s been a flurry of comments asking for more clarification, but Dash has kept mostly mum. I hope for the best but am expecting that soon I will have to select another GPS for my car.

Dash, are you stuck in traffic somewhere?

I use GrandCentral for my business phone number. Their service was extremely promising: a VoIP solution that gave you a number of great services and one phone number in the area code of your choice that could be forwarded almost anywhere. When Google bought them, I thought they would be around for a while. But their last communication on their Web site is dated April 22 of last year saying they are “working hard every day on the next great version of GrandCentral and a ton of cool new features.” Then, nothing.

GrandCentral, you never call.

I haven’t heard from Dash or GrandCentral that they’re pulling the plug, but I’m bracing myself for the news. If good products like Pownce, I Want Sandy, Stikkit, Yahoo! Photos, Google Notebook, and Jaiku can be cut, how do I know what will be next? GrandCentral promised me a phone number “for life.” Truth is, I never really believed that. I still have the checkbook from a defunct California bank that promised me “free checking for life.” They neglected to say that they meant their life.

These are tough economic times and I have to expect that even my favorite vendors will be cutting back on less-than-successful products and services. I understand. I just wish that you would talk to me sometimes, just to tell me what’s going on with you and that you’re still OK. I’ll just sit here by my computer or phone, waiting for your tweet or call or e-mail or SMS telling me we can be friends, even if, you know, we’re not actually together anymore. If you called, you’d probably say that it’s about you, not me. That’s OK. I’ll understand, really I will.



13 Comments For This Post

  1. Lloyd Budd Says:

    Great article, though I think Yahoo! Photos was around for like 7 years.

  2. Harry McCracken Says:

    Hi, Lloyd–I think Rod was talking about the new, improved version of Yahoo Photos that Yahoo launched after it already owned Flickr. It was a pretty darn ambitious Web app for its time–in some ways, a better one than Flickr. That one lasted only a few months before Yahoo (understandably) decided to focus on one photo-sharing service…


  3. Rob R Says:

    This article reminded me of the several contortions Grand Central went through before it settled on the current business model. It actually started as an SOA vendor of some kind…an odd evolution.

  4. Rod Bauer Says:


    You’re right. Yahoo! Photos launched in 2000 and closed on September 20, 2007. As Harry says, there was an updated version of Yahoo! Photos launched that same year, two years after they bought Flickr, which really makes you wonder what the strategy was at Yahoo!

    While I don’t have access to the market numbers for digital photography, online photo services, and Yahoo! Photos, I believe the penetration of Yahoo! Photos into the total potential market for such a service by the time it shut down could not have reached even the Early Majority phase of the adoption curve.

    Cheers, Rod

  5. Adam Says:

    GrandCentral is *not* dying (confirmed by several Googlers). Please see

  6. BJ Fogg Says:

    Thanks for getting the reference right to Ev Rogers. So many people mistakenly attribute “Crossing the Chasm” for this work. Nope.

    It was Ev Rogers who brought “diffusion of innovation” to light way back when, and even then he was leveraging previous work from people who studied farmers.

  7. Rod Bauer Says:


    Great news if GrandCentral does have an update in the works.

    I would hope that they would put some effort into communicating with their users. They don’t need to open the kimono to all their plans, just let their users know that the pot is still warm on the stove. (How’s that for a mixed metaphor, whew!)

    Twitter went through a phase in which they had a LOT of technical problems, and barely told their users what was going on. If they didn’t have market momentum, they could have derailed on the way to success. They since have become very good about communicating to their user base, and made significant improvements to their technical infrastructure. I believe GrandCentral, and Google, might learn something from this.

    Cheers, Rod

  8. George Nimeh Says:


    Early adopters don’t tell people they’re early adopters. They just are.

    And, they know better than to count on all the stuff they adopt to work. That’s part of being an early adopter. Generally speaking, they don’t whinge, whine and moan about it, either.

    Anyway, sorry you’re feeling lonely, though. Have you heard of Facebook? You might wanna give it a try.

    Couldn’t resist. Sorry. 😉


  9. laafrodescendiente Says:

    i am an early early adopter
    i dont mind when a free service ceases to exist, i just appreciate having access to cool stuff
    i had free internet for a long time when all sorts of companies were doing free dialup, when it ended i didnt complain HELL i had a year of free internet

    when yahoo 360 flaked, i didnt care. i’ve been using yahoo chat and email and groups and messenger since messenger was pager. FREE. i fully expect new services to disappear one day and am prepared

    i do not, however, buy tech until it looks solid. i wouldnt buy the beta iPhone or iPod for example, I prefer to give that stuff time to get the bugs worked out

  10. Matthew Timberlake Says:

    Very apt; my willingness to be an early adopter has waned in part because of the dynamic Rod describes. Investing your time and content in a product or service that then drops out beneath you can be pretty painful. That said, Rod has long been a great source of information and insight about the leading edge of tech – I’m sure in part because he’s an early adopter and likes exploring new apps, new technology, new paradigms. So it has its benefits.

  11. Rod Bauer Says:


    I'm on Facebook. Help me out, send me a friend request.


    Cheers, Rod (spelled with a d, so you can find me)

  12. Eric LEBIGOT (EOL) Says:

    Services that feature a kind of “emergency exit” definitely have an edge, when it comes to adopting software. For instance, I use Apple’s Address Book application because it can export all the contacts as standard vCards: if necessary, I can switch to another address book without much losses… Thus, I tend to only use services (web or desktop applications) that allow you to export your data in a perennial format, and this proved very useful.

  13. Clint Bradford Says:

    I don’t regret for a moment purchasing a Dash unit last year. I have had (and still have) one of the most advanced personal GPS units on the market. I *did* receive a notice two or three days ago on it, advising that a new User Service Agreement was forthcoming – but haven’t seen it yet.

    For those unfamiliar with Dash – it access cell phone systems and Wi-Fi for access to Yahoo for searching … as well as transmitting owners’ speed data to the “system” – you are actually enhancing others’ commutes with the data your unit generates as you drive along.

    Another “early adopter” purchase was my Fall, ’06 purchase of my 17″ matte MacBook Pro. There were rumours of “new models” coming out in just a few months’ time. And new models did, indeed, hit the streets a couple months later. But the new models (and even today’s models) aren’t offering anything that I am lacking nor needing.

    It’s a wonderful time to be alive … I just returned from a visit to my local Stapes office supply store. Picked up a few good-brand-name 8GB USB sticks for just under twenty bucks each … that’s about 1/15th of what I paid for them when they first became available. became available.

    Clint Bradford
    Mira Loma CA US

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