Dial Up Still Covers AOL’s Bills

While AOL beat Wall Street estimates this past quarter, it was also revealed that it still has multiple millions people still paying $20 a month for Internet access. How is this possible in 2014?

But as always, the most amazing thing about AOL’s business is the thing that drives AOL’s business: Millions of people, who started paying the company a monthly fee for Internet access more than a decade ago, who continue to pay the company a monthly fee for Internet access, even though they likely aren’t getting Internet access from AOL anymore.

Source: Re/code

Missing The Photo Op

Very interesting article in the NY Times about Flickr and the swirling rumors about its demise, which from their POV, have been grossly exaggerated. What is crystal clear from the article is that Yahoo severely under-invested in this great service:

“We just missed some opportunities that we could have tried if we were independent and raised our own money,” Stuart Butterfield [a co-founder] said. “Who knows what would have happened?”Giving more visibility to photos of breaking news events, like riots in Paris or minor car crashes, was one idea that never got off the ground. International expansion could also have happened more quickly, Mr. Butterfield said.

At least Yahoo had the decency to shut down its Yahoo Photos property in favor of Flickr, which is not something they can say about Delicious

Article via NYTimes.com
Image via The Oatmeal

Yahoo To Shut Down Delicious

I can’t tell you how upset this makes me. Delicious has been my go to site for years, since it first was released, to find great links and information, as well as to keep track of links that are important to me or need to get back to later on. I have been a loyal user of the service for years. It has been my database of links in the cloud…when I needed to find that demo on a random blog for JQuery scripts, or a tutorial on how to use CSS. Hell, I taught myself HTML, CSS, and to a lesser degree, PHP, using sites I had bookmarked on Delicious. I could not have done that without Delicious. There is no way. With Delicious, if I stumbled on a site but didn’t have the time to go deep (which happened more times than not), I could save it and get back to it. Otherwise, I would have been searching all over the place. In many ways for me, Delicious was the precursor to Instapaper and Evernote.

From Andy Baio:

Just leaked: Yahoo! is closing or merging Del.icio.us, Upcoming, Fire Eagle, MyBlogLog, and many more. http://yfrog.com/h3z89p
12.16.2010 via @waxpancake

As John Gruber just said, it was only a few short years ago when Yahoo was the place to go for start ups such as Upcoming, Delicious, and Flickr to name a few. And with Tomas Hawk’s recent flame of Yahoo!’s Carol Bartz, where he begs and pleads for her to put some attention into sites like Flickr, you have to really be concerned that some of the most iconic properties on the internet, Yahoo included, are on the chopping block or at least life support.

But it goes beyond this. When Delicious launched, they brought to the masses one of the most significant and innovative elements of the web – they readily and in a dead simple way, enabled users to use “tags” to describe the links they saved. The implications of this were staggering. And what was more, they did so in a semantic manner. If you used Delicious twice or more, you pretty easily figured out that if you typed delicious / tag / [any word here] into your browser, you would get all the links relative to that keyword or tag. That combination was a game changer in my mind. Others may have done bits and pieces of that, but Delicious pulled it all together.

RIP Delicious. I am pissed. I think Yahoo may have just lost me for good. This is a sad, sad day.

You can click here to Export your years and years of links up at Delicious. Thankfully they are an open platform and freely let you export your data.

Googleheim Museum

Google is taking its popular site YouTube to NYC’s Guggenheim Museum.  The search company will set up shop in the Guggenheim’s main atrium with all sorts of TV and video displays promoting the finalists from a recent promotion they ran.

The exhibition, set for October, will showcase videos from as many as 20 finalists of YouTube Play, a contest for graphic artists and users of Googles GOOG video site. A celebrity jury that includes Japanese pop artist Takashi Murakami and The Wrestler director Darren Aronofsky will wade through about 200 videos whittled down from thousands submitted in July.

The goal of this initiative is to try to re-position YouTube as a site/service that can cater to a more upscale, arts driven clientele and move it beyond the perception that its content is, er, lowbrow.

Star Wars Uncut

Star Wars: Uncut is an online project where the original Star Wars movie has been broken down into :15 increments. From there, folks from around the Web and world then submit their own video depicting that scene. The final product is a mash up of all the best submissions for each scene edited together to create the full length depiction of the movie. Just brilliant and awesome!! Here is a clip of a preview of the movie, which will be premiered at a film festival in Copenhagen.

Internet Roadkill

Here is an interesting article from the Telegraph of London detailing 50 things that the Internet is killing off. A few to consider:

3) Listening to an album all the way through The single is one of the unlikely beneficiaries of the internet, a development which can be looked at in two ways. There’s no longer any need to endure eight tracks of filler for a couple of decent tunes, but will “album albums” like Radiohead’s Amnesiac get the widespread hearing they deserve?
10) Watches – Scrabbling around in your pocket to dig out a phone may not be as elegant as glancing at a watch, but it saves splashing out on two gadgets.
14) Dead time – When was the last time you spent an hour mulling the world out a window, or rereading a favourite book? The internet’s draw on our attention is relentless and increasingly difficult to resist.
21) Delayed knowledge of sporting results – When was the last time you bought a newspaper to find out who won the match, rather than for comment and analysis? There’s no need to fall silent for James Alexander Gordon on the way home from the game when everyone in the car has an iPhone.

ESPN Chicago

Another nail in the coffin of newspapers and local media. Today, ESPN launched ESPN Chicago, a version of ESPN.com specific to Chicago sports. Basically, they are going to try to leverage their scale to deliver localized content to Chicago. But it’s not just Chicago, this is going to scale to the major markets across the US and Canada. The incremental cost to develop this site was probably relatively minimal, but they will now be able to charge a premium to advertisers who want to market online to a predominantly Chicagoland audience. I’m sure NYC, Boston, LA, Dallas and others are not far behind. And just think, with ESPNZone in Chicago, they can have some serious multimedia, multi channel promotions to dream up. It will be interesting to see how the market reacts to this – whether they will gravitate to this offering or if they will continue to stick with their trusted sources like the Tribune, the Chicago Sun Times and the bartender at Harry Caray’s.

We’re Not Dead Yet

There is a little contentious battle brewing between The Atlantic and the NY Times. The NY Times says it is not going away in May, as was suggested by The Atlantic’s Michael Hirschorn. Yet while its not going away anytime soon, it is an institution that has seen its better days. Be sure to read John Battelle’s post on the future of publishing, which was prompted by the same article.

You’ve Got Micro-mail

Here’s an interesting rumor. AOL execs are pursuing merger talks with Microsoft. What an amazing turn of events this would be for Microsoft…to go from courting Yahoo to being courted by AOL.

Now AOL is not anything close to what it used to be. Its transformation into an advertising supported business appears to be flat-lining. Its one “800 lb gorilla” – AOL Instant Messenger appears to have lost about 400 of those pounds with new social networking services like Twitter, Plurk, et al.

Could be an interesting combo. More to come.

Yahoo Sports Beta?

Wow, that is a rough design.

Looks as though there may be a Beta release happening at Yahoo Sports. I was on the site checking out my fantasy football and baseball teams (I think their Fantasy sports suite is just fantastic. And my football teams were actually doing pretty well. Thanks for asking. :-) and saw this yellow banner just above the blue “Today in Sports” headline. The two links on the top right read “Beta Feature Index” and “Send Feedback”. When I clicked through the “Beta Feature Index” link, it went to a Yahoo branded error page. When I clicked through the “Send Feedback” link, it went to a feedback form. In navigating the site, I did not see any BETA features. I’ll be interested to see what they plan on doing on the site and to see if it’s going to compete more directly with ESPN in look, feel and volume of information. No matter what they do, the site definitely needs an upgrade.

Are Pigs Flying?

AOL for free? You can’t be serious. I never thought I would see the day. It took them long enough! Its funny when you look at the twists and turns of the Internet portal space and how all the “big boys” have essentially taken different paths but are ending up in the same place. Yahoo, Google and MSN (plus other not so big sites like Lycos, Ask, etc.) have a big lead in the ad market, however the volume of users at AOL can’t be denied.

From my perspective, AOL IM (disclosure: I used to work at AOL on the IM product) is now not the 800 lb. gorilla within AOL, but the 8 ton gorilla. With 35+Million users, this is an engaged audience that AOL needs to actively cross sell in order to get them to expand their usage of other AOL products and services.

I think the most pressing question is: what is everyone going to do with their AOL CD-ROMs?

End of an Era

Wow, Lycos did not make too many friends this week. It started on Wednesday when Lycos Finally Sold back Wired.com to Wired Magazine and Conde Nast. Even when I worked at Lycos, I never understood how that relationship worked and why Wired.com was independent of the magazine. Then, as a result of that sale, it was released that Lycos will shutter Webmonkey, the classic web development site that influenced and helped out so many developers in the early stages of the Internet era.

The sale of Wired is something that should have happened years ago for the simple reason that the site should be alighed and owned by the magazine of the same name. I don’t have too much of an issue with that. But the shutting down of Webmonkey is just a sad situation. Lycos never, ever gave it any resources whatsoever in all the years it owned it, and let it die a slow and painful death. It was only the resourcefulness of the folks out in the SF offices who kept it going as a labor of love and passion.

With Lycos’s new focus on “customer generated content” (i.e.: lets scap money off bloggers and other users), you would think they would have kept WebMonkey and re-invigorated it. I mean, they could have used WebMonkey as an aggregator of developer articles and tips/tricks published all across the web via RSS feeds and such, kind of a combination of A List Apart and del.icio.us. They could have positioned it as a one stop shop for development articles.

But management at Lycos was never too visionary. At one time, they had Jeff Veen, Doug Bowman, and numerous other highly talented innovators and visionaries in the Interactive space under one roof and they failed to put them in positions to succeed. And you wonder why that company is now roadkill on the information superhighway!?!

Does AOL Know How to Code?

My AOL
My AOL

With much fanfare, AOL has released its new free portal and “MyAOL” service. Granted, it feels like a flasback to 1998 when everyone and their dog were releasing portals. Obviously, it seems that AOL is still coding like its 1999.

Granted it is a Beta release, but it appears that AOL (Disclosure: I used to work at AOL) still has some work to do before the portal can be considered completed.

Example, please…you ask. Well, I first loaded up AOL in my favorite Firefox browser. And being that my Firefox has the text set a bit on the small side, the AOL page rendered as it appears on the right hand side here (click through for a larger image). As you can see, the page looks like it has some serious design challenges, with images partially covered, navigation tabs partially covered, ads that are wider than the column they are sitting in, text extending outside of its section, icons that are misaligned.

It gets even worse with Internet Explorer. When AOL’s homepage is rendered in IE, if the text size is set to “smaller”, the two main columns of the page sit on top of each other making the page twice the intended length and nearly imossible to comprehend.

Now to be fair, when you go to most sites (for example, go to Yahoo and increase the browser text size) and adjust the text size larger or smaller, the interface does adjust (expand and contract) with the text size. However, in many cases, the layout of the site follows with the adjustment of the text and keeps the basic integrety of the “normal text” interface. And with well coded CSS driven sites, the text size is pretty much fixed and controlled by the style sheet. Howver, I’ve seen few sites as high profile as AOL degrade so quickly after a single text size adjustment higher or lower within the browser settings.

Has AOL still not figured out that they need to look beyond their “walled garden” when it comes to developing online products? I am rooting for them. I think they have a lot of great products that are overshadowed by the perception that AOL is “internet on training wheels”. I’m looking forward to the Alpha release of this portal!

Clutter on Google

In a very interesting move, Google is now indicating if you are logged in when you are on their homepage (see red box in image above). This is a very interesting move in that it is taking them one deep step closer to “portal” land. But I think what is more interesting is how their homepage is, relatively speaking (of course), getting more cluttered now that there are several new services they are exposing on the homepage.

For the longest time, they have stayed true to their original simple design, and that has been a key factor in their growth. However, with all the new services they are launching and testing out via Google Labs for example, I think they may be challenged to keep the homepage uncluttered and focused on search while still giving equal exposure to new products such as Gmail, Google Maps and others. As the homepage stands now, I think its getting messy and looking a little amature-ish.

What is more interresting is when you look at the overall market that includes Yahoo, AOL, and now Google. Yahoo has always been the leader in the market and they have evolved from just an Web based service to one that includes several software applications that extend the Yahoo experience to the desktop. AOL started as a software application on the desktop that extended to the Internet. Now, they are going to focus more on Internet/Web based services while still offering the desktop software applications (AOL Client, AIM, etc.). And now Google is doing the same thing, with desktop applications such as Desktop Search, Gmail Notifier, etc. It seems that all of these online services are meeting at the desktop in a war to control how users access different services. And I have not even mentioned Microsoft, who still own the desktop but have been awful quiet recently.

It will be interesting to see how they evolve the homepage to bring forward the new features they are launching without detracting from their core Search product.

Update: In another interesting move, Google introduced a personalized homepage which pretty much signifies that they have jumped into the portal pool with both feet.