2007 reprise: Could FaceBook risk becoming another AOL?
Here is something I wrote in 2007. (Could Facebook Risk becoming another AOL). The context was different, ok, a lot different given that is 9 years ago and I was thinking about Lending Club who were only available within FaceBook, but I believe the conclusion stands. In fact the reality that has shown the shifts over those 9 years towards an open and mobile dominated internet supports the point. No-one has the final answer, because there is no final answer.
FaceBook are chasing their tails.
Here is the thing. AOL which was the US #1 internet source at one point, lost out because its mission was to retain users within the walled garden. It is not the first time this argument has been used but consider …. AOL strategy was all about building tools within their own garden, and as early as the 1990’s they even had their own browser and their own markup language (think proprietary version of HTML). They had their own CD which let you install AOL on your computer. The AOL ‘platform’ was a CD. Platform, tools, apps; the parallels are remarkably close.
How do make a walled garden successful over the long haul? How can you make people remain within a walled garden without them being constantly bombarded by “grass is always greener” incentives that is the internet today.
The graphic below is a chart of active users on different social networks. If we dig behind the words “social network” what we are looking at his how people communicate with friends and relatives, or at least that is how the “social network” got its name. Meanwhile along the way in an effort to make money, advertising is introduced and co-incidentally people seek different models, whether simplicity, lower bandwidth, mobile friendly, ad-free, etc..
One striking aspect of the names on the graphic below is that they all have different models, different ways to engage people, and most distinctively different was to adapt to mobile. Who will be there in 2025? How will that list look in 2025?
So reading this Techcrunch story today which is one of a succession of initiatives by FaceBook to adapt to the AOL problem just makes we wonder.