AOL Strikes Back

The name AOL was once synonymous with the Internet. Many of us grew up addicted to the familiar “You Got Mail!” and spending countless hours flirting on IM. Although AOL clearly set the standards for Web 1.0, following the AOL/Time Warner merger, AOL kinda went bust.

Kids no longer beg mom and dad to sign up for AOL. Subscription rates are declining. Key employees have jumped ship. The generation that grew up on America Online has long since abandoned the safety of the sandbox – preferring to test their luck with best of breed services on the wild, wild, web.

The bottom line is that AOL clearly dropped the ball. They have been so sluggish in fact, that many folks are convinced that they are down for the count. But it seems that the giant that once made the web tremble still has a bit of life left in them – AOL Instant Messenger.

This seemingly innocuous little program currently still has a commanding user base and is one of the largest active social networks on the planet. AOL has recently made massive strides to expand upon the AIM platform and tear down their walled garden with AIMPages. This MySpace competitor automatically creates a customizable publishing space for every single AIM user on the planet. Talk about leveraging an existing user base.

Although the product is clearly buggy, it is definitely a huge step in the right direction. Their move to capitalize on AIM, coupled with their aggressive thrust into the emerging Web 2.0 ecosystem – acquiring Weblogs, Truveo, and most recently introducing their slick new video service – are waking people up to the possibility that the folks in Dulles might still have a couple tricks up their sleeves. If AOL can manage to keep running (no pun intended) to open up their platform around AIM, they might still have a seat at the table.

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