Facebook as the New AOL

Several years ago I had a conversation with a woman who was amazed when I told her that she didn’t need AOL to access the Internet. At the time she’d been paying for AOL when Internet access was available through her cable TV subscription.

“I thought AOL was the Internet,” was her reply.

It’s funny to think about now, but for millions of AOL users their entire Internet experience was via America Online. They communicated with each other through emails and forums, read news and entertainment articles, and even shopped through AOL’s portal. It was a one-stop shop for them and with AOL’s merger with Time-Warner (Jeez, remember that?) AOL seemed poised to ensure nobody ever left by providing a flood of content.

Of course, things changed and more and more telecom companies became ISPs and the Web’s interconnecting nature spelled doom for anyone who tried to contain information…and access.

Funny then to see what’s going on in Facebook. With a half a billion members, Facebook is the dominant player in the digital world and they’re keen to keep it that way. Not by controlling access to information but by being that one-stop shop AOL was way back when. It’s now where we go to communicate with each other through status updates, wall posts, and direct messages; we browse news and entertainment articles our friends post and Like; and now, we can even shop.

Post, like, poop, buy. Image Credit: MediaPost

While social marketing is nothing new—and even some examples of social commerce have been bandied about (see: Pizza Hut)—Pampers’ new Shop Now tab, owned and operated by Amazon.com, allows users to buy without ever leaving Facebook. According to MediaPost, shoppers will be able to login using their Amazon account info to order products, but never have to actually go to Amazon to check out.

As Facebook’s membership grows and as it integrates with more partners, will we someday think Facebook is the Internet?

2 Responses to Facebook as the New AOL

  1. Tom Bennett October 11, 2010 at 9:52 am #

    OR, will Facebook suffer the same fate as AOL precisely for the same reasons? AOL became so internally facing and ossified, that it wasn’t able to keep up with the open-source internet that changed at the speed of innovation. Tons of diskettes and CDs were unable to blanket the internets fast enough to drive new customers.
    My challenge to Facebook is to stay relevant as it tries to create its own branded experience on the web. Those always seem to fail eventually.


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