Facebook Tries to Recreate AOL

This sounds a lot like what AOL tried to do, back before anyone knew what the web was or how to navigate it.  Interesting how these things come back around

Facebook's long-term ambition has been twofold. First, to become the de facto front end for the web— to become a portal not just to the lives of your buddies, but to everything else that is on the web in the first place. (There is remarkably little discussion about Facebook eclipsing Google as a search engine, maybe because nobody thinks the subject is worth taking seriously; they need to reconsider.) The second step is to replace the web entirely— to take every piece of functionality that we've normally associated with the rest of the web, from picture storage to news aggregation to messaging— and reincarnate it inside Facebook's ad-driven walled garden.

Facebook Home is yet another way to do that. By giving people a low-entry-level device that's essentially a front end for Facebook— or a convenient all-in-one fullscreen app— they make it easier for people to dispense with dealing with any other part of the web that's not Facebook. They don't have to block anything explicitly; they just have to make the Home experience so immersive, and offer so much through it, that after a while you don't feel the need to touch anything else. And given that I have friends who barely know a web that exists outside of Facebook, that's really unnerving.


  1. SamWah:

    With the privacy issues I've heard about, I'd guess only low information people would use it for everything.

  2. marque2:

    Aren't people getting tired of Facebook. I don't use it nearly like I did say two years ago. I look at it once a day still, but don't feel compelled to post much any more. I don't care about folks I only mildly knew in high school, and now that I found out what some people I lost touch with are all doing fine, I really don't care that they went to restaurant X in some city 1000 miles away. I feel burnt out.

    I did install their app on my phone, but it was worse than just looking Facebook up on Chrome, so I uninstalled the app.

    By the time Facebook comes up with this and makes it work, we will all be on to something else more interesting.

  3. NRG:

    AOL?? LOL!! Almost everything is simply re-inventing AOL.

  4. marque2:

    They should go back to Compuserve, The Source, and Prodigy!

  5. MingoV:

    There are at least one hundred million low information adults and teens in the USA, so Facebook has a big market. I know plenty of people who spend most of their internet time with Facebook. An Android cell phone with easy access to Facebook will appeal to millions and could outsell iPhones in the USA.

  6. Sandman:

    I think there's a big difference here. AOL wasn't trying to build a new business - they were trying to protect their bread and butter dial up business. Facebook hasn't tried to replace the web, but merely provide a portal through which to browse it. To their theory, most of us browse the web through links provided by other people, and since they are the largest collection of connections, they are in the driver's seat.

    AOL couldn't maintain its dominance, because what it was providing, the pipe, was easy to replicate (and ultimately, impossible to hold on in face of DSL and cable). The only cost to switching was getting your email switch. Facebook, on the other hand, has huge switching costs, at least so long as its popular. Until most of my friends are somewhere else, the experience anywhere else is going to be suboptimal.

    So I don't think the comparison is correct. Everyone - Apple, Google, AOL and now Facebook - wants to be the front page of the web. AOL was it for a while, Yahoo had a short run with their customized home page, then Google took over for a while. Apple uses hardware to try to be that entry point. Facebook is not particularly different from most of the big players on the web.

  7. mesaeconoguy:

    So FB will purchase the NYT, and go belly-up in the worst merger in history?

  8. marque2:

    Android phones already outsell iPhone by a large margin with some 60% of the market. Best selling smart phone is Samsung Galaxy SIII

  9. Thruppennybit:

    This also sounds a lot like what Microsoft is doing with Windows 8

  10. Rich R:

    Unless Facebook quickly figures out how to make money off of all this expansion, they will soon go the way of AOL. I haven't looked at their numbers in a few months but last I checked they were still losing money; maintaining server farms all over the world and staffing offices is massively expensive and their revenue from games and ads just doesn't cut it. LinkedIn on the other hand has been turning a profit for a few years, mostly due to the premium membership fees. Being all things to all people is a great concept but so far nobody has been able to make it work, I have my doubts that Facebook will either.

  11. Dan Sherman:

    Yep. And it'll end up just as successful. #sarcasm

    Facebook will end up being the biggest failure in business history (from the perspective of expectations vs reality.) It'll take a while, but the world will eventually bore of FB and move on.

  12. ErikTheRed:

    Great, they must think that what the world wants is a web whose user interface becomes gradually worse and more dysfunctional over time. I still find Facebook to be very useful, but I'm looking for a "next best thing" as are many other users.

    As an aside, their iPhone / iPad app has become so awful (hangs / crashes every few minutes) one would almost wonder if they've done it on purpose it push their new phone. :-).

  13. Bram:

    Maybe they plan to sell the whole mess to Time Warner for billions.

  14. 0ptimist:

    It actually reminds me more of the portal wars during the late 90s. Everyone wanted to be the gateway to the web. My suspicion is that Facebook will be about as successful in the long term as Go.com.