In the many years that America Online has been in the technology business, I've been left wondering just how do they survive. With the Time Warner Merger in their history, its about time that AOL come out from under its dial-up shell, and breath new life into its brand name using the social tip-of-the-arrow that is The Huffington Post.
I remember back in the days, when the internet was a fledgling concept that was slowly evolving from university lab experiment into a mainstream everyday tool of convenience. No one really understood exactly what the internet was used for, except for this obscure communication method called "electronic mail". All we knew was that you needed something called a "modem" that would connect to this internet using your phone line. In those days, the internet was a vast open desert, void of content or home pages, and we were collectively just trying to figure out how it all worked.
AOL was the first of the big internet companies to offer a user-friendly way to get online. By employing their proprietary software, just about anyone could get connected easily, with little or no knowledge of technology or how computers worked.
As the internet evolved, wave after wave of business/marketing people saw this vast open space as the digital west -- a frontier where one could make their mark upon millions of people simultaneously. It was a customer-centric goldmine for whomever figured out exactly how to grab the attention of all of those users. Once internet connection became a moot point, we saw the advent of online stores and internet advertising. What better way to get your products in front of millions of people each day, than to have a web store?
But eventually, even the web-based businesses would discover that any product or service can only go so far, without the connection of social media. After all, its one thing to get 100 people interested in something, but its better if you can get each of those 100 people to share their experience with 100 other people. In the heart of the internet lie the basis of connectivity - networking had turned into social interaction. It is in this concept that we now find AOL, stretching its legs and shaking of the dust from its servers. Content is the new frontier on the web, fueled by social networking, and evolving through social change.
So to AOL - welcome to social media. Yep - this is what the internet looks like today... a lot different from when you first started handing out those dial-up internet access CDs.
Welcome to the party.