AOL made a minor splash in the news Thursday with its new Android App and HTML 5 site update. The HTML 5 site, mobile.aol.com, is optimized for the latest generation of smartphones featuring Android and iOS operating systems, both of which support HTML 5 for rich content and location-based services. Yeah, but does anyone use AOL anymore?
As it turns out, they do. AOL actually gets 28 million visits a day and their AIM software remains, if not ubiquitous, nearly an IM standard. As eWeek puts it,
The company, which is working hard to transform into an Internet content company, is making a big bet on mobile to compete for eyeballs with Google, Facebook and Twitter.
AOL, however, is not Google, MSN, or Yahoo. Yahoo, for example, despite a loss of market share to Google remains a popular portal at 400 million visitors a day, dwarfing AOL's traffic. Can an App or a mobile-friendly website change that?
I don't particularly like the idea of monopolies or oligopolies, but it's going to take something pretty compelling to get me to download the AOL Apps and begin making use of AOL services. Services optimized for mobile include news, weather, traffic, and movie information, but this is hardly revolutionary. All of the major portals also have mobile-friendly sites and the AOL Android App merely provides access to AOL mail and Mapquest. A second app, AOL Daily Finance, lets users get financial news and receive stock quotes, but again, this has been done elsewhere.
If I'm going to download an App, I want it to be really useful for me. This App is only useful for people who are already invested in AOL Mail and related properties. It certainly won't bring new users into the fold.
Should AOL throw in the towel? No, of course not. Competition is good. But come one, folks - give me something that plenty of other providers don't do well already. Do something interesting with IM, video or audio chat, or leverage the "You've got mail" brand that still resonates with 30- and 40-somethings. The few people left at AOL are pretty bright. I bet they could come up with something better than another email app for webmail that not many people use. You want eyes on your site and the ads you serve? I'm afraid this isn't going to do it.