Is Facebook the next AOL?

Many people fear the Facebook will become a dominating, suffocating presence on the web.  But over at Techcrunch, Mark Suster argues that recent history undercuts that notion:

  • In 1998 the Department of Justice launched an anti-trust case against Microsoft.  People feared they were going to have a monopoly over the Internet due to “bunding” Internet Explorer with their operating system.  A bit laughable in 2010, just 12 years later.  These days people would sooner fear Apple than Microsoft, proving that reality is stranger than fiction.
  • In April of 2000 there were fears that the AOL / Time Warner merger would create a monopoly on the Internet.  As you know, Time Warner eventually spun off AOL for peanuts.  AOL is in the process of rebuilding itself and emulating a little-known LA-based startup called Demand Media.  AOL seems to be doing great things to reinvent itself under the leadership of Tim Armstrong, but monopoly? Never.
  • In May 2007 there were fears that Google was becoming a monopoly.  It controlled two-thirds of all Internet searches in the US and as we all knew—search was inevitably going to be the portal to finding information on the Internet.  Or was it?  We now know that social networking is having a profound impact on how we discover and share content online.

He suggests that while Facebook may be dominant over the next few years, by 2020, we’ll  be laughing at the idea that Facebook could be a threat, in the same way that we now laugh at the long-ago warnings about AOL or Microsoft.  Google, well. . . I still worry about them.

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