Vapourware is some old-school internet slang that refers to a piece of software that is being pitched or sold but isn’t likely to ever be seriously developed or completed.
The first use of the term “vaporware” can be traced back to the 1980s. Ann Winbald, a Microsoft engineer, referred to a cancelled software product as “selling smoke,” and thus the phrase “vaporware” was born.
The phrase is often used derogatorily, referring to “x” products as vaporware. Since the earliest days of the tech industry, there has always been a penchant for overselling products or promising investors the moon, only for it to be revealed to be impossible to achieve or beyond the creator’s ability.
The phrase was in great use throughout the.com bubble, which saw hundreds, if not thousands, of largely theoretical companies, achieve massive amounts of speculative evaluation. Only for them to completely collapse when it was revealed that they were nothing more than “smoke and mirrors.”
Some of the most famous examples of vaporware include “The Action GameMaster,” a 1994 console that may well have been technically impossible at the time and would have cost around $500 per console. (That’s about $1000 today)
Today, in the modern Web3, blockchain, and DeFi industries, we are seeing something of a revival of the phrase.
Crypto, blockchain, and Web3 in general are full of highly ambitious products and creators who are all too often selling the idea of their product long before they have it. This isn’t uncommon and, in many cases, is a great way for developers to get the hype and capital needed to get their vision off the ground.