I’m not saying Facebook doesn’t bear some similarities to 90s-era AOL. And I’m not saying publishers shouldn’t work with them. (I wouldn’t say “give in.”) But I’d challenge the logic — which I’ve heard many times — that FB will, therefore, go the way of AOL, necessarily.
Reasons to be suspicious of this assumption:
- AOL is the only company we can point to that had similar control of mainstream Internet. We can’t extract a pattern from one data point.
- Looking more broadly, the history of network-based markets has consistently trended toward centralization and closed systems (telephone, radio, cable).
- The open web didn’t exist when AOL gained dominance. When it came along, it was superior in many ways — variety, experience (?), cost — to AOL’s garden. And most people weren’t online yet. But the open web did exist when Facebook rose to power. It can’t come along and blow FB away, because it’s already here — and losing.
On the other hand, there is one convincing reason to believe it:
- Everything ends.