Is Facebook Just AOL 2.0?

The old saying is, “what goes around comes around.” It’s never been more apparent than in the world we live in now. Remakes from the 1980s and 1990s are all the rage. Everywhere you turn there are echoes from your past staring you in the face. Some are obvious and others are more like a sense of deja vu, it feels familiar but you can’t quite tell why.

You may not realize it, but Facebook is one of those very things.

While The Social Network led us to believe that Mark Zuckerberg created the entire site simply to impress a former girlfriend — and who hasn’t done something extremely grandiose, like starting a billion dollar company, to impress a girl — there seems to be a much larger plan at work. Shocking, I know.

Facebook is trying to remake something that was stitched into the fabric of America in the early 1990s as much as John Travolta’s comeback and the OJ trial combined. The big blue FB is trying to become AOL 2.0. — or would that be AOL 10.0 Extremely Optimized? — minus the free floppy disks and CDs flooding your mailbox. (Although, those have been replaced by the daily email, and pathetic confidence boost that reads, “You may have more friends than you realize.”)

Think about it, while they’re not providing internet access per se, they’ve reverse engineered many of the elements that made AOL a success. Newsgroups? Facebook will do you one better as their entire feed is predicated on sharing stories and comments. Groups? Yep, they have groups. Articles? Check. Instant Articles that were recently released that let you read things directly on the Facebook platform. Games? Yeah, you know they have games because of the 4,000 invites we all used to get to play them. The evolution of email is even there in the notifications tab. Even AOL’s most popular feature back in the day AIM (AOL Instant Messenger) has been remade by Facebook with Messenger (and they barely even tried to hide the fact by using the same naming philosophy as George Foreman uses to name his kids.).

While easier access to internet service, higher speeds through cable modems and a more robust offering of websites marked the end of AOL’s closed system, Facebook has found a way to use that same climate that ended their ancestor and recreate that self-contained ecosystem within it. The best part, at least for them? The dependency to their brand wasn’t tied to a dependency on providing an internet connection like AOL’s. It was formed naturally and makes it even more formidable. It’s an addiction rather than a commodity.

The reports of Facebook’s demise are greatly exaggerated. It’s never been dying at any point in its history. While its competitors like Friendster and MySpace failed to evolve and died, Zuckerberg and his company continue to morph into something different. Something familiar. Something we once had. Another, more powerful, AOL.