A couple of days ago, I read a post by Jeff Pulver entitled Facebook: Evolving beyond being “Just a Social Network”. His comparison of Facebook and AOL, calling Facebook potentially the “new” AOL, immediately struck a contemplative cord with me. What strikes me
as so fascinating how similar the two stories are.
In the late 90′s, AOL was still a darling of the web. But its strategic issues really were showing themselves with their “walled garden” approach while the “open” web was growing, thriving and becoming a true disruption to their destination business. One could say that having everyone come to AOL was a large factor in the difficulties they ran into.
So here we are in 2007, Facebook is all the rage and creating for themselves a “new” garden. Are we heading into a scenario where much of social web experiences are found in the Facebook environment. I find it very interesting that at a high level, Facebook is in fact doing exactly what
AOL did in the past. Now, granted, an open API architecture where developers are consciously tying their solutions and services onto the Facebook platform is quite different. In fact, I am not criticizing their solution in any way, I think their strategic move to “open up” could be a brilliant one and really changes the playing field particularly for vertically-oriented social networks.
But the premise remains the same, you can go to the web (or in this case the “social” web) but you need to come to Facebook first. Perhaps Jeff was on to something with his question, “Is Facebook the “new” AOL?”, indeed.