Is Google simply rebuilding a modern day AOL?

Is Google simply rebuilding a modern day AOL?

In a company meeting this morning something dawned on me. After the meeting, I did some digging and managed to find a picture of the old AOL. It immediately brought back memories of the old “hacking” I used to do back in the days of AOL and BBS’s, which of course, made me feel rather ancient and kind of like a nerd. Which, subsequently made me reflect on the question my Dad had asked me back in the early 90’s, “Scott, is it worse to be a dork or a nerd”? The answer, of course, was always “a dork is clearly worse”. Because a nerd was a dork, but a smart dork, so at least a nerd stood a chance of becoming Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates or Larry Page. But a dork is just a dork.

Sorry, back to the point at hand…during this process I noticed something – while we’ve come a long way in web technology; the internet, much like life, seems to be rather cyclical.

So take a look at the case I make below, and ask yourself this question. Is it just me, or is there an uncanny similarity between what Google has been slowly rolling out over the last few years, and the old AOL software that you would get on a CD 15 years ago?

In old AOL we had a web browser, email, file storage, favorites, channels, people, stocks quotes, perks, weather, etc.

Now, let’s compare to Google. In modern day Google we basically have a similar setup. We have a browser, with a bunch of tabs for different actions. We can browser with Google search. We can store files in Google Docs. We can look at stock quotes in Google finance. We can communicate with groups of people in Google’s new social platform Google+. We can shop with Google shopping. We can get “perks” or deals with Google Deals. We can browse information by “channel” as AOL would call it, or “group” as Google calls it in Google groups. We can check the weather by searching weather in Google. We can save our favorites in Google favorites.

Perhaps the way people access the internet may have changed, but the things people want to do online haven’t changed that much. And thus, much like AOL’s conquest to be the central hub of the internet in the dial-up age, Google is making the equivalent play for the broadband age.

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Scott Kaufmann
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Scott is Partner at Lucid Agency and a lover of all things technology, marketing, investing and entrepreneurship. Scott volunteers on the board of the Denver-based Nonprofit Celebrate EDU and as a mentor for SeedSpot (a Phoenix-based social startup incubator).

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