by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
acquisitions, instant messaging, social networks

aol, bebo, time warner

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.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Hellsvilla, Mar 13th, 2008 @ 11:25am

    I disagree

    AIM should not have been a social network, and turning it into one will destroy it.

    What's wrong with the thought that there ought to be different communications platforms for different types of needs?

    If AIM had been a "social" app instead of what it is, it never would have gotten to where it is.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 13th, 2008 @ 11:38am

    I think facebook and orkut really suck. They aren't as useful as myspace and facebook is far more annoying with the annoying applications. I've never checked out bebo. Is it as annoying as facebook or as useless as orkut? Of course, if I was Brazilian I'd love orkut. Same thing just mentioned in the UK love of bebo. I also joined a UK based network called faceparty which is el sucko too.

    Bleh. I'm sick of network sites but they're useful. It's like having to hang out at the bar when I'm at a work party. It's the best spot to network.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 13th, 2008 @ 12:02pm

    So, America Online is recruiting the UK to fuel its new social network? There's irony somewhere in there.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    interval, Mar 13th, 2008 @ 12:11pm


    the kids don't think it sucks, at least not while they're kids, and that's a lot of the audience the big boys are after.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 13th, 2008 @ 1:07pm

    Mike missed the mark.

    Hellsvilla is right, if AIM were a social network it would have failed.

    AOL already had it's whack at what could be thought of as a predicessor to social networks, remember AOL personal pages? Before Geocities were born, AOL users had the ability to create their own personalized web pages with a wizard interface, very similar to what a person can now do with a social network like MySpace, livejournal, etc...

    AOL was right on the mark in making AIM nothing more than a messaging service. Remember pre-AOL ICQ? Believe it or not ICQ used to be pretty cool. Once AOL got a hold of it and turned it into an ad-ridden portal service they killed it. The same would have happened to AIM had AOL attempted to make it anything more than a messaging service.

    C’mon Mike, get with the program, you’re better than this.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Overcast, Mar 13th, 2008 @ 1:50pm

    Yeah, Yahoo and AOL had all the pieces - they just never really put them all together...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    m. kalinsky, Mar 13th, 2008 @ 6:18pm're late

    sorry but on bebo, you're late & not at all adding to the conversation. i understand that your job here isn't to break news but kara swisher, cnet and other sites earlier had all this news - in far more detail & depth.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Duncan, Mar 14th, 2008 @ 4:19am


    Facebook is much bigger in the UK than Bebo. Bebo's much more kid-populated - Facebook is the big UK social network.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads


Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.