AOL was one of the early pioneers of the Internet in the mid-1990s, and the most recognized brand on the web in the United States. Where did it all go wrong?
Well simply enough, technology advanced beyond AOL’s capabilities. Dial Up was replaced by broadband internet access. AOL did make efforts to join the bandwagon. However, they never really succeeded and as the chart below shows, they steadily bled subscribers.
In January of 2003, AOL/Time Warner reported a $45 billion dollar write down to reflect the “declining value of its flagship America Online property.” This led to a $100 billion dollar yearly loss, at that point, the largest in corporate history.
Despite the belief that dial-up along with AOL is dead, a staggering 2.1 million people still, to this day use AOL dial-up. A far cry from its 34 million subscribers, but still, an interesting figure when you think about the technological age we are currently living in.
Myspace’s downfall came from greed. The owners of Myspace majorly monetized the site which made the site slow, more difficult to use, and less flexible. Myspace could not experiment with its own site without forfeiting revenue, while rival Facebook was rolling out a new clean site design.
Following this, people began to immigrate to Facebook, Myspace did attempt to keep users coming back by rolling out new services such as instant messaging,a video player and a music player. However, the features were often buggy and slow as there was insufficient testing, measuring, and iterating.
Myspace were beat out by new technology and better, less buggy sites that offered more to a user with less advertisement. Moral of Myspace? Don’t get greedy. You can do a lot with advertising, but you may just be detering your audience with the way you use it.
Bebo’s story is a historical one what with the BBC prevailing AOL’s purchase of Bebo as "one of the worst deals ever made in the dotcom era" and that’s a big statement to make.
At the height of Bebos popularity it became the most widely used social networking website in the UK and overtook Myspace. Due to this popularity, the site was bought out by AOL for $850 million. So, what happened?
Well, AOL as we already covered, was a failing company itself, buying out Bebo was an attempt to put AOL back on track. However, AOL failed on the upkeep of the website. They made, little to no effective innovations which would keep people on the site.
Like most, Bebo fell out of fashion, Facebook and Twitter were offering more features that appealed to a wider audience where Bebo remained a blogging site with out of date features that were once hailed as stylish, sharing the ‘luv’ and creating animated ‘blingee’ backgrounds could only stay relevant for so long.
On April 7, 2010, AOL announced that it would either sell Bebo or shut it down. The company could not commit to taking on the massive task to keep Bebo in the social network 'race'.
R.I.P Bebo, gone, but never forgotten.
Ask Jeeves went through a short but brilliant phase of somehow being the favoured search engine. It was in that late 1990s period when suddenly everybody had discovered the power of the internet and found the idea of putting direct questions to a friendly P.G. Wodehouse butler a more human experience.
However, when Google had its start in 1997, its way of ranking sites rather than a question and answer service proved to be a whole lot more useful to users. Ask Jeeves lost out due to their algorithm, it wasn’t giving people the best results. In 2000 Google became the most popular search engine on the internet and in 2005 Jeeves was officially ‘retired’.
MSN Messenger started off life in 1999 as a rival to AOL’s AIM service. They eventually succeeded in becoming the preferred service by adding multiple features including custom emoticons, the ability to play Minesweeper with friends, a nudge feature and the super annoying winks.
So what happened?
Well, I find myself repeating myself at this point but, MSN couldn't handle the evolution in technology. Facebook launched instant messaging as a feature on their site and as the whole world had basically integrated onto the site already, it was so much easier to have both instant messaging and your social media all in one site. MSN did attempt to integrate into Facebook, however the service was buggy and just didn't work.
MSN didn't know where to go in the new market, the mobile app phenomenon began and MSN did not innovate or integrate into this new market smoothly and because of this it now ends up on lists like this one.