The AOL question as applied to Facebook

James Robertson asks an interesting question: “why was AOL looked down on, and Facebook is admired? Is it as simple as “all the cool kids like Facebook” ?”

First of all, most of the “cool kids” are over on Pownce, if truth be told.

But the business people are moving into Facebook very quickly.

Second, Facebook is no AOL.

Facebook is a Web app. THAT alone is a HUGE difference between AOL. I don’t need additional software, or to pay fees to get into Facebook.

It doesn’t work differently than my current Web does. Back when I joined AOL, in the late 1980s, it looked and worked COMPLETELY DIFFERENTLY from Prodigy which worked completely differently from the BBS systems my friends ran.

AOL isn’t a walled garden. It’s something else.

Facebook is a data roach motel. Your data goes in, but it rarely leaves.

Heck, last night I was trying to use Anagram to see if I could easily save contact info from Facebook into Outlook. It wasn’t working. Turns out that it’s very hard to get data OUT of Facebook. (Anagram is a cool utility to grab emails, Web addresses, and other info off of emails and Web pages and add them to Outlook’s contact manager).

Look at how that cool new Google Reader app works inside Facebook. Data comes in, but it doesn’t leave.

That leads me to why Facebook is cool and AOL wasn’t. Facebook is somewhat open where AOL wasn’t open at all. Facebook is evolving rapidly because they opened up to third-party developers where AOL didn’t open up to third-party developers.

But it does have a little bit to do with the fact that I could kick idiots off of my Facebook experience at any time. I couldn’t do that with AOL and that’s what got it derided.

34 thoughts on “The AOL question as applied to Facebook

  1. Please someone tell me how is FB comparable to Second Life?? SL IMHO is just video game (and one that gets boring fast), that aside I think that whole corporations inside the video game may have some value, why not use the same model on other online games? It would ROCK to play say the latest final fantasy online for free, brought to you by sponsors x,y,z (i.e. “just stop by their stand, they are giving away the x magic sword for free to each player”) Now that would be cool, but I digress… Now on to FB plataform… what’s so cool about this baby is that it gives developers ready-access to the connections already there between (30Million+? and growing users) A LOT of web-apps involve a social component in one way or another, 2 months ago if you wanted to build a social app of some sort you basically had to build a network yourself, which a)took A LOT of time if you wanted something good B)sucks to be a user and have 30x different networks with mostly the same friends.

    About FB being for college kids, this is for you Chris, dude how can this be for any particular type of user?? I’m a college kid, so all right, most of my friends who are there are in college, well duhh, most of my friend in real life are in college. Scoble’s friend list has clearly a very different demographic. The only way FB was only for college was if socializing ended after you graduate…

    one last thing I don’t see getting the deserved attention is how FB pltaform effects Vertical Social networks. In my opinion they will either integrate to FB Platform or dissapear. I think I remember reading a post by someone at Ilike when plataform was lanuched, the dude basically said he was unsure if FB platfrom should be their main focus or their ONLY FOCUS. Nice. http://appaholic.com/display/2413267546
    that’s almost 5 million Ilike app users and counting.. how mmany where there before FB platform?? not even funny

  2. Please someone tell me how is FB comparable to Second Life?? SL IMHO is just video game (and one that gets boring fast), that aside I think that whole corporations inside the video game may have some value, why not use the same model on other online games? It would ROCK to play say the latest final fantasy online for free, brought to you by sponsors x,y,z (i.e. “just stop by their stand, they are giving away the x magic sword for free to each player”) Now that would be cool, but I digress… Now on to FB plataform… what’s so cool about this baby is that it gives developers ready-access to the connections already there between (30Million+? and growing users) A LOT of web-apps involve a social component in one way or another, 2 months ago if you wanted to build a social app of some sort you basically had to build a network yourself, which a)took A LOT of time if you wanted something good B)sucks to be a user and have 30x different networks with mostly the same friends.

    About FB being for college kids, this is for you Chris, dude how can this be for any particular type of user?? I’m a college kid, so all right, most of my friends who are there are in college, well duhh, most of my friend in real life are in college. Scoble’s friend list has clearly a very different demographic. The only way FB was only for college was if socializing ended after you graduate…

    one last thing I don’t see getting the deserved attention is how FB pltaform effects Vertical Social networks. In my opinion they will either integrate to FB Platform or dissapear. I think I remember reading a post by someone at Ilike when plataform was lanuched, the dude basically said he was unsure if FB platfrom should be their main focus or their ONLY FOCUS. Nice. http://appaholic.com/display/2413267546
    that’s almost 5 million Ilike app users and counting.. how mmany where there before FB platform?? not even funny

  3. I, too, agree with Chris. Let’s see how long this lasts. It started out as a more mature version of Myspace. You leave high school and myspace behind and move on to Facebook. Now that it’s being polluted with non-college types and dweebs from SV, the pioneers will move on. Scoble, the fact that Facebook defines your contacts as friends doesn’t mean you have 3,000 friends. You have 3,000 contacts that for some reason think it’s cool be be part of your network. Let’s define it as what it is.

    @2 “I have billionaires who are on it, a ton of CEOs, a ton of CTOs, a ton of PR people, a ton of product and program managers, etc etc.”

    If Dateline’s “To Catch a Predator” is any indication, the same type of people hang out in chat rooms to seduce underage girls for sex..what’s your point?

  4. I, too, agree with Chris. Let’s see how long this lasts. It started out as a more mature version of Myspace. You leave high school and myspace behind and move on to Facebook. Now that it’s being polluted with non-college types and dweebs from SV, the pioneers will move on. Scoble, the fact that Facebook defines your contacts as friends doesn’t mean you have 3,000 friends. You have 3,000 contacts that for some reason think it’s cool be be part of your network. Let’s define it as what it is.

    @2 “I have billionaires who are on it, a ton of CEOs, a ton of CTOs, a ton of PR people, a ton of product and program managers, etc etc.”

    If Dateline’s “To Catch a Predator” is any indication, the same type of people hang out in chat rooms to seduce underage girls for sex..what’s your point?

  5. I think it’s cool that you tech guys get all worked up about this stuff, analyze it to death and then almost always move on.

    It’s a great way for me to find out more about the things that I can’t get as involved in due to time constraints.

    The issue of getting burned out on hype from tech folks only affects the early adopters and close watchers. Most of the world isn’t watching you guys and that’s good.

    If they did, then Valleywag would be the #1 site and companies would have to figure out how to monetize the experience of being famous for increasingly shorter periods as such cycles inevitably heat up.

  6. I think it’s cool that you tech guys get all worked up about this stuff, analyze it to death and then almost always move on.

    It’s a great way for me to find out more about the things that I can’t get as involved in due to time constraints.

    The issue of getting burned out on hype from tech folks only affects the early adopters and close watchers. Most of the world isn’t watching you guys and that’s good.

    If they did, then Valleywag would be the #1 site and companies would have to figure out how to monetize the experience of being famous for increasingly shorter periods as such cycles inevitably heat up.

  7. Facebook is better than AOL, but I don’t think it’s because they’re only slightly open. Facebook is better all around, and the slight openness adds to that.

    With that said, too much hype can give people “hype fatigue” – that is, they become hostile towards a service (or person) simply because they get tired of hearing the same thing over and over.

    Now, I don’t know if people will respond positively to the quote “I have billionaires who are on it” – Is this implying that the service is better because of the billionaires, or that it is somehow more beneficial to society because it has billionaires on it?

    Anyway, at least you don’t ignore nay-sayers… I commend you for personally responding to most people’s comments. For that, sir, I thank you. ;-)

  8. Facebook is better than AOL, but I don’t think it’s because they’re only slightly open. Facebook is better all around, and the slight openness adds to that.

    With that said, too much hype can give people “hype fatigue” – that is, they become hostile towards a service (or person) simply because they get tired of hearing the same thing over and over.

    Now, I don’t know if people will respond positively to the quote “I have billionaires who are on it” – Is this implying that the service is better because of the billionaires, or that it is somehow more beneficial to society because it has billionaires on it?

    Anyway, at least you don’t ignore nay-sayers… I commend you for personally responding to most people’s comments. For that, sir, I thank you. ;-)

  9. I cant even believe you brought up Windows Live Spaces. Look behind the unique accounts they have – as you said, its extremely easy to set up a Windows Live Space if you have a Messenger account. The key thing is the engagement of those users. Facebook and MySpace blow Microsoft Spaces away in respect to page views, time spent on the site and visits. So many of those Windows Live Spaces accounts are dormant and rarely used. The average Facebook user generates hundreds of pages per month.

    I will quote Worldwide Comscore figures here, for the month of May:

    active users:
    myspace – 109m
    windows live spaces – 107m
    facebook – 49m

    total minutes:
    myspace – 16bn
    windows live spaces – 1.6bn
    facebook – 10.3bn

    page views:
    myspace – 50bn
    Windows live spaces – 2.2bn
    facebook – 30bn

  10. I cant even believe you brought up Windows Live Spaces. Look behind the unique accounts they have – as you said, its extremely easy to set up a Windows Live Space if you have a Messenger account. The key thing is the engagement of those users. Facebook and MySpace blow Microsoft Spaces away in respect to page views, time spent on the site and visits. So many of those Windows Live Spaces accounts are dormant and rarely used. The average Facebook user generates hundreds of pages per month.

    I will quote Worldwide Comscore figures here, for the month of May:

    active users:
    myspace – 109m
    windows live spaces – 107m
    facebook – 49m

    total minutes:
    myspace – 16bn
    windows live spaces – 1.6bn
    facebook – 10.3bn

    page views:
    myspace – 50bn
    Windows live spaces – 2.2bn
    facebook – 30bn

  11. Robert…Chris does have a valid point. Things do get hyped out of proportion and you guys do jump from hole to hole like a bunch of rabbits. The fact that “you” have 3,000 friends, and a billionaire, is somewhat meaningless. You are atypical in the overall scheme of things. What’s hot and hyped this month probably won’t be hot and hyped next. There’s always a bigger, better, best just around the corner and you’ll all flock to it if past observations are any barometer.

  12. Robert…Chris does have a valid point. Things do get hyped out of proportion and you guys do jump from hole to hole like a bunch of rabbits. The fact that “you” have 3,000 friends, and a billionaire, is somewhat meaningless. You are atypical in the overall scheme of things. What’s hot and hyped this month probably won’t be hot and hyped next. There’s always a bigger, better, best just around the corner and you’ll all flock to it if past observations are any barometer.

  13. Robert: I’m afraid I more or less agree with Chris on this one.

    It’s not that people aren’t using Facebook right now, your experience says they are. The question is how many of them will be there in another 3-6 months? That’s why he’s pointing to Second Life as a reference.

    These fads come and go. The true test of any kind of social site is how many people still use it a year after it is ‘cool’.

  14. Those people are only on it because it’s being talked about right this minute. They will probably not be using facebook in 1-2 years. I wonder if they are even using it regularly now.

    “you are an idiot who hasn’t even tried it out.”

    I’m an idiot that has tried it out.
    It’s good, but it is what it is.
    I’m not saying it’s all hype. It is a great SN site for college kids. What I’m saying is hype is the sugar most Cali blogger folks are pouring on top of it.
    If Facebook gets overflooded with non-college kids or the school demographic, people are going to eventually leave.
    They’re not there for the software.

  15. Those people are only on it because it’s being talked about right this minute. They will probably not be using facebook in 1-2 years. I wonder if they are even using it regularly now.

    “you are an idiot who hasn’t even tried it out.”

    I’m an idiot that has tried it out.
    It’s good, but it is what it is.
    I’m not saying it’s all hype. It is a great SN site for college kids. What I’m saying is hype is the sugar most Cali blogger folks are pouring on top of it.
    If Facebook gets overflooded with non-college kids or the school demographic, people are going to eventually leave.
    They’re not there for the software.

  16. Robert: I’m afraid I more or less agree with Chris on this one.

    It’s not that people aren’t using Facebook right now, your experience says they are. The question is how many of them will be there in another 3-6 months? That’s why he’s pointing to Second Life as a reference.

    These fads come and go. The true test of any kind of social site is how many people still use it a year after it is ‘cool’.

  17. Chris: you are so clueless you can’t even see your own shoes through your cluelessness.

    I’ve been on Facebook less than a month. In that month about 3,000 people have friended me. Almost NONE of whom are college students. I have billionaires who are on it, a ton of CEOs, a ton of CTOs, a ton of PR people, a ton of product and program managers, etc etc.

    If you think Facebook is only about hype then I suggest, sir, that you are an idiot who hasn’t even tried it out.

    It’s FAR more than hype.

  18. Chris: you are so clueless you can’t even see your own shoes through your cluelessness.

    I’ve been on Facebook less than a month. In that month about 3,000 people have friended me. Almost NONE of whom are college students. I have billionaires who are on it, a ton of CEOs, a ton of CTOs, a ton of PR people, a ton of product and program managers, etc etc.

    If you think Facebook is only about hype then I suggest, sir, that you are an idiot who hasn’t even tried it out.

    It’s FAR more than hype.

  19. http://start.aimpages.com/

    You have to remember that both AOL and MSN had something Facebook doesn’t. Millions of people on AIM and MSN Messenger.
    If you have an MSN Messenger account to instant message, you automatically have a MSN spaces account. I believe the same is true of AOL AIM spaces.

    By brining members in unwillingly from an unrelated service, MSN and AOL can boast higher member counts than Facebook and most other social networking sites.

    Quite a few people use AIMpages.com, but it isn’t widely talked about amongst the inner circle of Silicon valley.
    AOL AIM Spaces isn’t on this list, but count it similarly to MSN Live spaces:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_social_networking_websites
    Windows Live Spaces Blogging (formerly MSN Spaces) 120,000,000
    By usurping members from another service like AIM or MSN, they actually have 4 times as many members as Facebook. I doubt AOL is very far behind.

    If you hype, hype responsibly.
    Look at what the 2nd life hype did:
    http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/07/14/will-the-last-corporation-leaving-second-life-please-turn-off-the-light/

    “The crux of the piece is that despite the hype, real life businesses are closing down their Second Life outposts due to little to no interest in them.”

    That quote is the motto and the slogan for silicon valley bloggers and marketers alike.
    It’s a constant house of cards you guys are building.
    Sometimes the hooks sink in, and other times people realize what’s going on.

    Facebook is a good service for schools, and it has a purpose, but I think they’ve blown it far out of context for the sake of value bluffing. Take it for what it is. A social networking site for college kids. And it’s fine being that. No need to exaggerate.

  20. http://start.aimpages.com/

    You have to remember that both AOL and MSN had something Facebook doesn’t. Millions of people on AIM and MSN Messenger.
    If you have an MSN Messenger account to instant message, you automatically have a MSN spaces account. I believe the same is true of AOL AIM spaces.

    By brining members in unwillingly from an unrelated service, MSN and AOL can boast higher member counts than Facebook and most other social networking sites.

    Quite a few people use AIMpages.com, but it isn’t widely talked about amongst the inner circle of Silicon valley.
    AOL AIM Spaces isn’t on this list, but count it similarly to MSN Live spaces:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_social_networking_websites
    Windows Live Spaces Blogging (formerly MSN Spaces) 120,000,000
    By usurping members from another service like AIM or MSN, they actually have 4 times as many members as Facebook. I doubt AOL is very far behind.

    If you hype, hype responsibly.
    Look at what the 2nd life hype did:
    http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/07/14/will-the-last-corporation-leaving-second-life-please-turn-off-the-light/

    “The crux of the piece is that despite the hype, real life businesses are closing down their Second Life outposts due to little to no interest in them.”

    That quote is the motto and the slogan for silicon valley bloggers and marketers alike.
    It’s a constant house of cards you guys are building.
    Sometimes the hooks sink in, and other times people realize what’s going on.

    Facebook is a good service for schools, and it has a purpose, but I think they’ve blown it far out of context for the sake of value bluffing. Take it for what it is. A social networking site for college kids. And it’s fine being that. No need to exaggerate.

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