AOL Realizes Way Too Late That AIM Should Have Been A Social Network
from the catching-up-four-years-late dept
As social networks like Friendster and then MySpace first came to prominence in the 2003/2004 time frame, we wondered why the big players (AOL/Yahoo/Microsoft) in the instant messaging space didn’t recognize that those instant messaging networks were better social networks than the networks. Whereas most social networks had little to do once you connected, most people used instant messaging to communicate all the time. Those instant messaging systems already knew who all your “friends” were, and it shouldn’t be that hard to then take that information and convert it into a more standard social network, with instant messaging features built right in. Yet, nothing really happened. Yahoo and Microsoft made some half-hearted attempts at social networking with little success, keeping them mostly separate from their vibrant instant messaging networks. Now, it appears that AOL has finally woken up and realized this possibility, but since it’s so late to the game, it’s decided to just buy Bebo for $850 million and integrate it with AIM.
While $850 million is less than was earlier rumored, and suggests that Bebo’s growth rate isn’t as strong as it would like, the site does have plenty of users (mostly in the UK). When I was over in the UK a few months ago, everyone was talking about Bebo the way people talk about Facebook here. That said, linking AIM to Bebo in a way that gets people interested may be difficult. There’s certainly a bit of social network fatigue going on these days, and it seems as though people are beginning to wonder why they should join yet another social network unless it really provides something different and compelling than the last social network. Yes, AOL should be turning AIM into a social network, but they should have done it four years ago when it still made sense. As it stands, this seems likely to go nowhere fast — especially with the cloud over AOL’s future strategy.