I used to have a page at AOL Hometown. It was the first website I ever made.
It had imagemaps and everything.
It also had a long list of quotes... because who hasn't kept a quote book at one point or another.
And now? It's gone.
AOL scuttled it without any warning to its users. At least, I don't think they attempted to warn me. I logged back into my old AOL mail account. I didn't see anything. They could have mass IMed all their AIM users... "Hey, AOL is closing the following stuff down... if you have anything on it, back it up."
Instead, my first homepage is gone.
I mean, was it really costing them that much to keep up?
It's amazing how far AOL has fallen. What is it anymore? The only think I use AOL for at this point is AIM... and even then I'm using Digsby anyway.
I've brought this up lots of times before, but AOL was Facebook before Friendster was Facebook. Updating your text based AOL profile was a key aspect of online social networking from 1997-2001, the years I went to college. They knew who everyone's friends were and where most people's gateway to the web.
And it wasn't too late for them either. Even just a couple of years ago, when they tried to build AIMpages, it wasn't that they had been beaten to the market--companies like Tumblr and Twitter have proven that little tweaks in the publishing model can create pretty large niches. It was poor execution and itegration. They just never came out with compelling products... and the interesting stuff that they did buy, they just never integrated well.
I think, for some of us, we still wanted to use AOL's stuff... at least give them a shot. I have a certain nostalgia for AOL... and they lost their way.
What's interesting is that they were all about community and being a friendly place on the web long before other people created spaces that had a certain feel for them--at least they were one of the first to create a critical mass doing it. Twitter is what AIM and AOL should have become--a place to find and connect and talk to people.
What did AOL lack? Visionary product folks? Technologists? Strategy?