This is more of a side effect of the fact that these aren't really companies, but projects. It is very common for software projects to "die", but still be available for use. A decent proportion of software on SourceForge is "dead" software (hasn't been updated in years), but people still find a use for it.
This isn't that much different, except that they are web-based applications instead of traditional software projects. As you said, since hosting is so cheap these days, it is not too difficult for somebody to keep a server alive so that people can continue to use a software project that they have lost interest in.
Chances are if these were real companies instead of just projects, that the company would continue to exist, but rather just be focusing on a different project.
I like the comparison to SourceForge. I frequently download and use open source software, and it's really hard to know if it's still getting developed.
However, my criteria for deciding on whether or not to use the software is more heavily weighted on how complete the product than whether or not it's actively maintained. I'll much readily download something that's well-documented and has a sufficient feature list than something that's being developed daily with the default SourceForge home page and zero docs.
Same with web services -- I'd gladly continue to use all the web apps I use now as long as they're production-ready. This is of course assuming that someone has an eye on it to keep the lights on, and that they'll reboot a server if it goes down. But maybe I'm assuming too much "walking" from the "walking dead."
I think the most important thing when using some of these new services, is if you can get out of it somewhat easily or what happens if they shut down.
I just started using a service from some early startup where it is really not sure if they will continue to develop this thing, but they promised to open source the project if they stop working on it, which would allow me to continue to use it, even if the project dies.
Same with data, it's important that you can export your data somehow and that it is not a locked down, closed system.
Any comments to this rumor folks?
“Google Inc. is in talks to acquire popular video-sharing site YouTube Inc. for roughly $1.6 billion, according to a person familiar with the matter. The discussions are still at a sensitive stage and could well break off, this person says.”
What were the four companies offered on eBay?