You Say Goodbye and We Say Hello

red-chairs

This is the last day of the All Things Digital site, which began life in April of 2007 as a year-round extension of the D conference we launched in 2003. Since then, we have published nearly 40,000 posts and attracted millions of loyal readers.

Starting January 2, we’ll have an all-new site and suite of conferences, with a different name and Web address, run as an independent company with great investors and partners. It’s likely that you’ll hear a lot about it.

But before we go — this will be our last post here, by the way — we want to say we are intensely proud of what we did on this tech and media news and analysis site. And as we reach the end, we’d ask you to indulge us in a moment of sentimental reflection.

When AllThingsD began, we told readers we were aiming to present a fusion of new-media timeliness and energy with old-media standards for quality and ethics. And we hope you agree that we’ve done that.

Over the years, we’ve had numerous scoops, influential reviews and thoughtful analysis pieces. We have been the first to tell you what was going on inside the big tech companies, from Google to Microsoft to Amazon; what stealthy startups were doing and who was giving them money; and even exactly when Apple was introducing its next iDevice.

We have also explained in plain English what the mobile carriers and the e-retailers, the TV networks and cable companies were really doing — even if they said otherwise.

And we’ve tested hundreds of new products and services to tell you whether they were any good, from game-changers like the iPhone a couple of months after our site began, to a Bluetooth basketball last month.

We’ve also done what we humbly regard as some of the funniest liveblogs in the industry, and have brought you all the video and commentary for our own D conferences, all 11 of them. From the historic joint interview of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates a month after our site’s launch, through the carousel of CEOs at Yahoo, and many other memorable interviews, we think we have helped deliver some great moments in tech over the last decade.

As for that ethics thing, we’ve innovated there, as well. We introduced a transparent drop-down warning to all new users, cautioning them about tracking cookies. We placed a link to an individual ethics statement next to every writer’s byline. And we banned personal attacks and self-promotion from our comments. We also held stories until we were sure they had multiple solid sources, and killed them when they didn’t.

But what has always made us most proud over the years has been our stellar staff, which — although one of the smallest among tech sites — has worked brilliantly together, and punched far above its weight.

But now it is time to bid farewell to All Things Digital in all its incarnations. We hope you’ve enjoyed reading this site as much as we’ve enjoyed producing it.

As we noted, we are deeply grateful to our small but mighty team of writers, editors, developers, conference producers and business folks. And we thank Dow Jones for giving us the chance to run a small, entrepreneurial business inside a very big media company.

Most of all, we are in your debt for being our readers, and we hope you will follow us to the new site and conferences.

Because — in taking a page from the tech industry we cover — it’s once again time to refresh, reimagine, remake and reinvent. (You’ll see what that means soon enough.)

Or, as Kara wrote in her very first post for the website on April 18, 2007: “But enough looking back: On to the next thing.”

– Walt & Kara

Some of Our Fave D Conference Videos Before AllThingsD Signs Off in 3 … 2 … 1 …

i-7nGs7q3-M

Before we end our reign of terror, oops, tech at AllThingsD, I wanted to post a few of my favorite videos from D: All Things Digital conferences that we have done since 2003.

While we are proud of all we have created on the news site, I think it is fair to say that the conferences have also been pretty dang fine and moreso taken as a whole. While others may try to trot out the phrase going forward, I think it’s fair to say we have owned “all things digital” for the last 11 years.

We’ve had a panoply of bigs in tech and media up there over those many conferences, all sitting in our signature red Steelcase chairs, with some memorable moments, including:

More than a half-dozen appearances by the late, great Steve Jobs of Apple, including an joint interview with Microsoft’s Bill Gates; the famous hoodie incident with Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, who managed to ably recover from the very sticky situation; the testy interview with former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina; the hysterical one with former Sony head Howard Stringer; the sassy one from former Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz; the future-is-here one with former DARPA head Regina Dugan; the silent-off with former Groupon CEO Andrew Mason; the geek-out with Hollywood director James Cameron; the epic Elon Musk chat from last year, he of SpaceX and Tesla.

And many, many more, now numbering in the hundreds, most of which you can find here.

We did not publish the videos for the first five conferences, as we did not have a site to post them too, but here are my top seven from each year we did, all joint appearances with Walt Mossberg, as well as one each from the smaller Dive and other conferences, featuring Peter Kafka, Liz Gannes and Ina Fried.

D5 (2007)

Hands down, the historic — and decidedly poignant — joint interview of Gates and Jobs:

D6 (2008)

New Corp’s Rupert Murdoch in a surprisingly — to the crowd, at least — avuncular mode (this is part one of six — here are the rest):

D7 (2009)

Twitter’s Biz Stone and Evan Williams in simpler days:

D8 (2010)

Zuckerberg and the hoodie that saved the day:

D9 (2011)

Browser man and VC Marc Andreessen on software eating the world:

D10 (2012)

Hollywood superagent Ari Emanuel is not shy:

D11 (2013)

Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk is Tony Stark:

Dive Into Media (2012)

Rust never sleeps for Neil Young:

Dive Into Media (2013)

Vice’s Shane Smith and CollegeHumor’s Ricky Van Veen are also not shy:

Dive Into Mobile (2010)

Google’s Susan Wojcicki is the most powerful Internet exec you don’t know as well as you should:

Dive Into Mobile (2013)

Google’s Eric Schmidt will take your questions now:

AsiaD (2011)

Jack Dorsey of Twitter and Square is very inventive:

D@CES (2010)

Netflix’s Reed Hastings knows video:

D@CES (2011)

Twitter’s Dick Costolo is the fashion police of Las Vegas:

How Can You Miss Us if We Won’t Go Away? Paczkowski and Swisher Highlights From AllThingsD.

follow-dhollings-twitter11

A day late, but here’s the last installment of highlight posts from AllThingsD staffers, as we reach twilight on Dec. 31 and this site is no more.

As one of my fave depressing funeral poems goes:

“Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there; I do not sleep.”

Actually, I don’t sleep, since I am a blogger and, as you all must realize by now, a sparkly vampire, too.

Thus, like the undead, we’ll be reanimated in another form and with a new name right quick. And, not to worry, the archives of what we have written since mid-2007 will also forever remain as definitive proof that we existed, thanks to the hard workers at the NSA in its ongoing quest to suck every digital scrap it can find!

But before The Wall Street Journal redirects this site’s URL to its own tech coverage, here are some stories by John Paczkowski, the very first editorial hire Walt Mossberg and I made here, as well as some choice bits by me over the years (Yahoo, Yahoo and, well, mebbe some Yahoo, too!).

JOHN PACZKOWSKI

1. Who Will Buy Palm? If Not HTC, How About HP?

Key lines: “With handheld sales that fell by more than half year-over-year in its first quarter, HP is surely looking for a way to revive them and capture a larger portion of the important mobile market. Acquiring Palm could be a good way to do it.”

2. Google and the Evolution of Search I: Human Evaluators

Key lines: “Google had finally acknowledged that its search results were no longer solely and automatically determined by the company’s vaunted algorithms. Now they simply “relied heavily” on them. Why the sudden change?”

Thorsten_heins_RIMs_happy_rainbow_land

3. RIM CEO Welcomes Critics to Happy-Fun Rainbow Land

Key lines: “Despite a slew of evidence to the contrary — plunging market share, rapidly deteriorating fundamentals, mass layoffs and a stock that’s falling like a knife, Research In Motion’s got a bright future ahead of it. This according to CEO Thorsten Heins, who says RIM is headed for a rebound, not certain doom. In fact, he crowed in an op-ed piece in the Globe and Mail, ‘We expect to empower people as never before.’”

4. New Motion Control Patent Could Shake Up Smartphone Industry

Key lines: “Here’s a potentially noteworthy development in the patent litigation-riddled mobile device market. Last week, the United States Patent and Trademark Office issued a very broad patent on motion-based smartphone control, one that could have significant implications for the industry.”

5. Apple Maps App Takes Reality Distortion to a Whole New Level

“Apple may some day deliver a mobile mapping application that bests Google’s, but the new Maps app in iOS 6 — the latest iteration of its mobile operating system — isn’t it. Not yet, anyway.”

KARA SWISHER

1. Dear Jeff Bezos, Here’s What I Saw as an Analog Nobody in the Mailroom of the Washington Post

“One could say hindsight is 20-20, of course, but what made me sad about the sale — and I was very sad when I heard of it — was that these laudable and smart people could not seem to figure it out, and had to turn to a magical Internet wizard to do so. In the coverage, that sentiment was echoed again and again — that you would somehow conjure up a series of fantastic new news products that would capture the imagination of all and return the paper to its former glory.”

2. Liveblogging Yahoo’s 3Q Earnings: Busy, Busy, Busy (So Go Away, Tim Armstrong!)

Key lines: “[CEO Carol] Bartz then asked the question: ‘What have we done to re-engineer Yahoo?’ She reeled off a list she has repeated many times before, the point of which was to let us all know she has been mighty busy cleaning up the big mess she had to deal with on arrival. So lay off, all you naysayers! It’s kind of like what President Barack Obama is saying these days, as he looks forward to huge political losses in the upcoming election. It’s apparently a disciplined approach. “First you walk, then you run.’ Then, she added, you FLY! Don’t look down, Carol!”

images

3. What Not to Do in Hong Kong (Trust Me on This One)

Key line: “How shall I put this as delicately as I am known for: So I went to AsiaD in Hong Kong and all I got was this lousy transient ischemic attack.”

4. In 2009 Interview, Yahoo CEO Does Not Deny He Has a CS Degree, and Calls Himself an “Engineer” (Audio)

Key lines: “‘Your bachelor’s degree is in accounting and computer science. Now, from both of those, I mean that’s, that’s pretty obvious that’s PayPal,’ said [Moira] Gunn. ‘What are the most important things you learned?’ ‘Yeah,’ begins [Yahoo CEO Scott] Thompson, failing to correct her at all on the fact that he does not actually have a computer science degree — only one in accounting.”

5. CrunchFund? Unethical Ventures? Pig Pile Partners? No Matter What You Call It, It’s Business as Usual in Silicon Valley.

Key lines: “First, my initial reaction when I first heard about the deal: Ugh. Sigh. Hopelessly corrupt. Now 100 percent more icky! A giant, greedy, Silicon Valley pig pile. I was upset. By early evening, after my kids told me to chillax, my dark mood had changed to accept that the transaction — however profoundly distasteful to me — was part and parcel of the insidious log-rolling, back-scratching ecosystem that has happened in every other center of power in the universe since the beginning of time. And so it goes in Silicon Valley.”

As AllThingsD Draws to a Close, Here Are Some Staff Highlights — Part One: Kafka, Hesseldahl, Gannes

goodbye

On Dec. 31, at the stroke of midnight, All Things Digital will be no more.

Of course, the archives of what we have written since April of 2007 — close to 38,000 posts — will remain in the digital ether for your perusal (thanks, Edward!). And, as has been reported elsewhere, the whole staff of AllThingsD is reportedly moving on to a new online tech and media news effort with new investors and a new name (ironic, we know, but no comment from us!).

While we are not exactly sentimental types, I asked the crew to come up with a few of the stories they liked best from their tenure. I am posting them here, three AllThingsD writers today, three tomorrow, three on Saturday and two Sunday. (Note: I have not included Katherine Boehret and Walt Mossberg, as they did roundup pieces already for this site and The Wall Street Journal.)

And, on Monday and Tuesday, I will round up the really remarkable highlight videos of 11 years of D conference speakers.

Without tooting the horn too much, using tools of accuracy, fairness, quality and more than a little humor, you will see via this small sampling of stories a staff that has truly distinguished itself over the nearly seven years in bringing its audience the very best in news and analysis. I have posted only a handful for each, but it should give you a glimpse into the wide range of topics the AllThingsD reporters have covered over the years.

Here are some great examples of that, and once the retrospective wraps up — as I also wrote in my very first post on this site on April 18, 2007 — “Enough looking back: On to the next thing.”

PETER KAFKA

1. Time Inc.’s iPad Problem Is Trouble for Every Magazine Publisher

Key line: “Time Inc. likes to show off its iPad apps as a symbol of the company’s future. But inside the publisher, the digital editions have become a source of hair-pulling frustration.”

2. Meet the Prankster Brothers Behind “Jenny,” the Whiteboard-Using, Farmville-Exposing, HPOA Girl

Key line: “Almost certainly made up.”

burning-money-380x253

3. You’re Launching a Digital Music Startup in 2012? Really?

Key line: “Question to the people putting money into streaming music startups in 2012: What are you thinking?”

4. Why the Future of TV Won’t be Here Soon

Key lines: “This is the year for many big pronouncements about The Future Of TV, and we’re hearing the first round this week at the Consumer Electronics Show. Here’s how I’m sorting through the deluge: I’m ignoring almost all of it. Instead, I’m focusing on the ones that promise to bring me the TV I want to see, when I want to see it, without charging me a fortune. And without making me pay for stuff I don’t care about. Try it yourself. See? Things get quiet in a hurry.”

5. YouTube’s Show-Me-the-Money Problem

Key line: “The bigger question is whether YouTube will be able to generate enough ad money for content makers to support the “premium” programming it has been trying to attract so it can compete with traditional TV.”

ARIK HESSELDAHL

1. That Human Vs. Machine Practice Round of “Jeopardy” Didn’t End the Way You Heard It Did:

Key line: “If you consider the philosophical implications of the struggle between humanity and machines to be superior at certain tasks, then tonight is a big night.”

2. Will Bloomberg Disclose How Heavily Reporters Mined Customer Data? (It Watches Them, Too.)

Key line: “The newly fashionable idea that you can learn a great deal and thus improve a software application by analyzing the big mass of data gathered about how it is used and where users run into problems has been been at the core of Bloomberg’s operational philosophy from the beginning.”

bearcat_scanner

3. How a Webcam Pointed at a Police Radio Won the Internet Friday

Key line: “It was at this point that a quarter of a million people, including me, tuned in to the streaming video image of a Uniden Bearcat scanner radio picking up publicly available police communications traffic in Boston.”

4. OuchPad: Best Buy Sitting on a Pile of Unsold HP Tablets

Key line: “Best Buy, sources tell us, is so unhappy that it has told HP it is unwilling to pay for all the TouchPads taking up expensive space in its stores and warehouses, and wants HP to take them back. HP, for its part, is pleading with Best Buy to be patient.”

5. Who’s Next to Run Intel? A Look at the Internal and External Contenders.

Key line: “If indeed there is an internal horse race, it is between [Dadi] Perlmutter and [Brian] Krzanich. But here’s an important precedent: Every single Intel CEO since Andy Grove has been COO first.” [Note: COO Krzanich was picked as CEO.]

LIZ GANNES

1. Tech’s Rising Stars Push Into the Online-to-Offline Era

Key lines: “Although startups like Pinterest, Uber and Airbnb may not seem to have much in common except their lofty valuations, they share a similar purpose that could help describe the current era of consumer technology: Bringing the online world to the offline world. This is not a new concept, of course. But it’s a meaningful moment for the physical world to be activated by social, financial, personalized and sensory data. And likewise, it’s a relief for technology companies to chill out about counting every minute people spend on their websites — and instead figure out ways to fit usefully into the living world.”

2. I’m So Over Oversharing: On Making Our Digital Lives More Real

Key lines: “Caring about other people’s reactions is a natural part of sharing things. But social media so often turns people into strange, oversharing self-promoters.”

3. The Facebook Phone: The “Slayer” That Wasn’t

Key line: “About a year and a half ago, a Facebook mobile special ops team was formed, with its own building separate from the rest of the company. The workspace was accessible by keycard only to people intimately involved in the effort. This Facebook team was indeed trying to build a phone — really build a phone — much as Apple did, with integrated hardware and software. But when the project became too big and too political and different from where it started, many of the people involved left the company or went on extended leaves of absence, and the effort was shelved. The first Facebook phone project was called the “Social Layer,” which was then shortened to “Slayer,” a sly mashup of the phrase.”

4. Google CIO Ben Fried on How Google Works

Key lines: “Google CIO Ben Fried, who sets policies for internal technology usage at the company, said he is driven by the potential of consumer technologies and collaboration to transform the enterprise. But he can’t just let employees mess around with consumer-grade technology.”

5. Inside Dropbox’s Reverse-Engineered Company Culture

Key lines: “Five years ago, Dropbox famously reverse engineered Apple’s Finder system to introduce its own icon onto the top dock, with its folders fully integrated and a little green checkmark when files are synced. The hack was so nifty that it attracted acquisition interest from Steve Jobs. That original approach — thinking a system through and intuiting what it can do — turns out to be central to Dropbox, continuing through to the company’s recent product launches, like automatic camera uploads and integrations with various phone manufacturers.”

All Things Walt: Mossberg’s Top Dozen Picks From 20 Years of Reviewing Tech (Video)

walt_cnbc

Here’s the tech reviewer Walt Mossberg talking on CNBC about his top picks from the last two decades he has written about the arena.

Mossberg names Apple products as the biggest influencer over this time, although in his last column for The Wall Street Journal after more than 20 years of reviewing, he also mentions Microsoft’s Windows 95, Google Search and Twitter.

Although he is leaving the WSJ on Dec. 31 — and this site too, since it is owned by News Corp — there is much more to come at the start of 2014. You can read a bit about that here in this Mashable exit interview, where Mossberg talks about his work over the last 20 years and more.

Here’s the best part — his advice for young journalists just starting out, which never really changes:

“I would tell them quality over quantity, which is one of the biggest sins on the Web, particularly today. I would tell them that it is enormously important to earn the readers’ trust by being ethical, another problem that some websites are guilty of. I would tell them to keep in mind who your reader is. Never talk down to that reader.”

Enjoy:

Top Products in Two Decades of Tech Reviews

This is my last column for The Wall Street Journal, after 22 years of reviewing consumer technology products here.

So I thought I’d talk about the dozen personal-technology products I reviewed that were most influential over the past two decades. Obviously, narrowing so many products in the most dynamic of modern industries down to 12 is a subjective exercise and others will disagree.

Though most were hits, a couple weren’t blockbusters, financially, and one was an outright flop. Instead, I used as my criteria two main things.

First, the products had to improve ease of use and add value for average consumers. That was the guiding principle I laid down in the first sentence of my first column, in 1991: “Personal computers are just too hard to use, and it’s not your fault.”

Second, I chose these 12 because each changed the course of digital history by influencing the products and services that followed, or by changing the way people lived and worked. In some cases, the impact of these mass-market products is still unfolding. All of these products had predecessors, but they managed to take their categories to a new level.

Some readers will complain that Apple is overrepresented. My answer: Apple introduced more influential, breakthrough products for average consumers than any other company over the years of this column.

image

Newton MessagePad foreshadowed some of today’s most cutting-edge technology. SSPL via Getty Images
1. Newton MessagePad (1993)

This hand-held computer from Apple was a failure, even a joke, mainly because the company promised it could flawlessly recognize handwriting. It didn’t. But it had one feature that foreshadowed some of today’s most cutting-edge technology: An early form of artificial intelligence. You could scrawl “lunch with Linda Jones on Thursday” and it would create a calendar entry for the right time with the right person.

Read Walt’s review of the Newton MessagePad »

2. Netscape Navigator (1994)

The first successful consumer Web browser, it was later crushed by Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. But it made the Web a reality for millions and its influence has been incalculable. Every time you go to a Web page, you are seeing the legacy of Netscape in action.

3. Windows 95 (1995)

This was the Microsoft operating system that cemented the graphical user interface and the mouse as the way to operate a computer. While Apple’s Macintosh had been using the system for a decade and cruder versions of Windows had followed, Windows 95 was much more refined and spread to a vastly larger audience than the Mac did.

image

Windows 95 made the mouse a mainstay for computer users. Associated Press
4. The Palm Pilot (1997)
image

The Palm Pilot led to one of the first smartphones, the Treo. SSPL via Getty Images

The first successful personal digital assistant, the Pilot was also the first hand-held computer to be widely adopted. It led to one of the first smartphones, the Treo, and attracted a library of third-party apps, foreshadowing today’s giant app stores.

5. Google Search (1998)
image

From the start, Google was faster than its predecessors. Getty Images

The minute I used Google, it was obvious it was much faster and more accurate than previous search engines. It’s impossible to overstate its importance, even today. In many ways, Google search propelled the entire Web.

6. The iPod (2001)
image

Apple’s iPod was the first mainstream digital media player.

Apple’s iPod was the first mainstream digital media player, able to hold 1,000 songs in a device the size of a deck of playing cards. It lifted the struggling computer maker to a new level and led to the wildly successful iTunes store and a line of popular mobile devices.

Read Walt’s review of the original iPod »

7. Facebook (2004)

Just as Netscape opened the Web, Facebook made the Internet into a social medium. There were some earlier social networks. But Facebook became the social network of choice, a place where you could share everything from a photo of a sunset to the news of a birth or death with a few friends, or with hundreds of thousands. Today, over a billion people use it and it has changed the entire concept of the Internet.

8. Twitter (2006)
image

Like Facebook, Twitter changed the way people live digitally. AFP/Getty Images

Often seen as Facebook’s chief competitor, Twitter is really something different — a sort of global instant-messaging system. It is used every second to alert huge audiences to everything from revolutions to interesting Web posts, or just to offer opinions on almost anything — as long as they fit in 140 characters. Like Facebook, it has changed the way people live digitally.

9. The iPhone (2007)
image

The iPhone was the first truly smart smartphone. AFP/Getty Images

Apple electrified the tech world with this device — the first truly smart smartphone. It is an iPod, an Internet device and a phone combined in one small gadget. Its revolutionary multi-touch user interface is gradually replacing the PC’s graphical user interface on many devices.

A year after it was introduced, it was joined by the App Store, which allowed third-party developers to sell programs, or apps, for the phone. They now number about a million. It has spawned many competitors that have collectively moved the Internet from a PC-centric system to a mobile-centric one.

Read Walt and Katie’s review of the original iPhone »

10. Android (2008)

Google quickly jumped into the mobile world the iPhone created with this operating system that has spread to hundreds of devices using the same type of multi-touch interface. Android is now the dominant smartphone platform, with its own huge selection of apps.

While iPhones have remained relatively pricey, Android is powering much less costly phones.

Read Walt’s review of the first Android phone, the G1 »

11. The MacBook Air (2008)

The late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs introduced this iconic slim, light laptop by pulling it out of a standard manila envelope. It was one of the first computers to ditch the hard disk for solid-state storage and now can be seen all over — on office desks, on campuses and at coffee shops. It spawned a raft of Windows-based light laptops called Ultrabooks. I consider it the best laptop ever made.

Read Walt’s review of the MacBook Air »

12. The iPad (2010)

With this 10-inch tablet, Apple finally cracked the code on the long-languishing tablet category. Along with other tablets, it is gradually replacing the laptop for many uses and is popular with everyone from kids to CEOs. Developers have created nearly 500,000 apps for the iPad, far more than for any other tablet.

Read Walt’s review of the first iPad »

***

As I sign off from this column, I want to thank The Wall Street Journal for giving me the freedom to write these reviews all these years. And I especially owe great thanks to the readers who have followed my work. I am not retiring — I will still be doing reviews on a new online site. And the Journal will continue to offer tech reviews, penned by talented successors, which will continue to guide readers as consumer technology evolves.

Write to Walt at walt.mossberg@wsj.com.