Why Swivel shut down

Robert Kosara asked former Swivel co-founders Brian Mulloy and Dmitry Dimov about their thoughts on why Swivel shut down recently. Only the blog remains. In case you’re unfamiliar, Swivel was a service that let people upload data and share basic charts and graphs.

Mulloy and Dimov left Swivel a while back and are currently working on different startups, so it was actually news to them too. But in the end it seems it came down to context for the data.

Robert asked:

Will there be a YouTube for data that’s the same kind of success as the current YouTube?

Mulloy replied:

No. I think it’s a question of context. 99% of what made Hans Rosling’s health data so interesting was Professor Rosling himself. He would swallow a sword that was on fire as part of his presentation. I think that that context needs to be there for people to engage with the data. On YouTube, you don’t need context, you just play the video and then you watch the cat jump around and that’s all you need.

We saw the same sentiment with the shut down of Verifiable.

Plus there simply wasn’t enough interest to justify the expenses, with only single-digit paying customers.

Read the full back and forth here. It’s really interesting, especially if you’re developing or thinking about developing a data-based application. Some good comments in there too, including one from Joe Hellerstein, a technical adviser to Swivel.



  • Another problem is that a lot (the majority?) of data that statisticians (myself included) work with is protected by confidentiality. I’ve worked in Statistical Genetics and now work in Clinical Trials, and we can’t just upload data to such services, even if it is anonymised.

  • Another issue is that anyone can shoot a video and upload it, its not that hard really. It takes some acumen, thought and skill to collect useful and meaningful data that is worthy of sharing (although I’ll concede that a lot of the drivel that gets posted to YouTube and similar sites isn’t worth showing, but it is in part being included in the appearance of success of the site).

  • I loved Swivel, but I always wished that there was a way to share my data within my organization. Something web-based and easy, commentable but also semi-protected. I have high hopes for Google Fusion Tables!

  • I was sad to see Swivel go. The company I’m associated with is doing data visualization as part of or application which helps large companies manage their IT spend and processes. We have a pure Java/Javascript platform and are hiring. Are any of the swivel UI engineers still looking for work. I’d be lucky to get some of the talent that produced the sexy table and charts that made swivel so compelling.

    If so please refer them to me.. I’m an engineer not a recruiter :) really.

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