What Happened to TheFlip.com?

The Flip Video Camera was first released into the market in 2006 by an American company called Pure Digital Technologies. Production ended in 2011. In advertising the product, its manufacturers said that it made videos “simple to shoot” and “simple to share,” inviting users to “Shoot Anything. Share Everything.” TheFlip.com was the product’s official website.

Today, any attempt to find TheFlip.com is met with an apology: “Sorry — we can't find that page.” What happened to the website of a product that managed to capture 13% of the camcorder market only a year after it was launched?

To answer the above question, we took some time to follow the history of TheFlip.com. We also look at the company’s achievements and its purchase by Cisco. Finally, we provide some details about what happened to TheFlip.com.

The History of TheFlip.com

Even though the Flip Video Camera is the more famous of Pure Digital Technologies’ products, the company had several other products and services before launching the video camera. This is why a search through the archives shows that TheFlip.com was online as far back as 2001. At this time, the site provided a service where users could upload photos. 

The Flip’s predecessor was launched in 2005 as a disposable camera priced at $29.99 at CVS drugstores. A 2005 CNN article describing the disposable camera says that the “video camcorder's 1.4-inch color playback screen lets users watch their home videos and delete unwanted segments.”

The only way to watch the recorded footage was to take the recorded material back to the CVS store, where the footage would be burned to a CD so you could watch it on television or another device supporting a CD.

Introducing the Flip Video

The Pure Digital camera was reengineered and relaunched in 2007 as the Flip Video. When the new product hit the market in the first half of 2007, it was priced based on its storage space. For $119, you got a camera with 30 minutes of storage space. You paid $149 if you wanted double the space.

Kristen Nicole writes for Mashable.com and says that when Pure Digital designed the Flip Video, it addressed “the need for an easier way to get clips up on all those popular video sharing sites like YouTube and Revver.” The built-in USB made it easy to connect the camera to a computer when uploading videos.

Taking the World by Storm

In an article published by TheVerge.com, Sean Hollister reports that “the Flip Video camcorder took the world by storm, allowing millions to shoot digital home videos one-handed and easily save, share, and upload them to a nascent YouTube.”

Hollister cites internal Google emails when he reports that “the Flip Video was almost a Google-branded camera.” However, it looks like other executives at Google had their eyes on YouTube, and the Flip Video deal never happened.

If Hollister believed that the Flip Video had taken the world by storm, he wasn’t the only one impressed. In an article about the Flip published by The New York Times, David Pogue reports, “It's been the best-selling camcorder on Amazon.com since the day of its debut.”

Pogue's impression of the Flip is evident when he writes, “it's a blast. It's always ready, always with you, always trustworthy. Instead of crippling this 'camcorder,' the simplicity elevates it." 

Pogue seemed to run out of superlatives when describing the Flip Video. He says that “understanding the appeal of this machine will require you not just to open your mind, but to practically empty it.” He says emptying the mind was necessary because, on the face of it, the Flip Video looked like a “cheesy toy.”

Acquisition by Cisco

On May 21, 2009, Cisco Systems announced that it had completed Pure Digital's acquisition for $590 million. Cisco designs, manufactures, and distributes telecommunications equipment and networking software and hardware. By October the same year, TheFlip.com started redirecting to TheFlip.com/en-us/.   

The statement from Cisco quotes the then company’s Senior Vice President of Cisco’s Corporate Development & Consumer Group, Ned Hooper, saying, “Pure Digital has revolutionized the way people capture and share video with Flip Video.”

With regards to why Cisco was making the acquisition, Hooper said, “This acquisition will take Cisco’s consumer business to the next level as the company develops new video capabilities and drives the next generation of entertainment and communication experiences.”

The acquisition of Pure Digital left a few market analysts stunned. The BBC reported that “Analysts criticized the group for trying to do too much.”

For example, the Canadian IT publication ChannelDailyNews.com cites Nick Jones, an analyst at Gartner. He says, “$590 million is loose change for Cisco. But why spend even loose change on a brand no-one has heard of outside the US and which has sold about 2 million units in its entire history.”

Brad Reese, a columnist at Network World, agrees with Jones. Reese says that, while the deal may be great news for those who had their money at Pure Digital, the deal was not “a wise acquisition for Cisco.” 

What Then Happened to TheFlip.com?

About two years after acquiring Pure Digital and taking over the Flip camcorder manufacture, reports emerged that Cisco would stop manufacturing the camera and lay off 550 employees.

In a piece where he says that he was left stunned when he heard the news that Cisco would stop manufacturing the Flip, Pogue attempts to find reasons. He dismisses the argument that the smartphone had killed the Flip because “The masses still have regular cellphones that don’t capture video, let alone hi-def video.”

In an article published on Cnet.com, Marguerite Reardon cites an analyst who says, “There is no compelling evidence that Flip was failing. It remains far and away the leading consumer video camera company.”

Reardon also refers to some analysts who suspected that, since Cisco was not selling the technology, it had plans to incorporate it into some of its future products.

Pogue seems to agree with the analysts cited by the BBC earlier, who have said that Cisco was biting more than it could chew. He says that the Flipreaped the rewards that come from selling to a megalithic corporation like Cisco” that would “chop you up and leave you for dead.”

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