I have a T-shirt from the late 90s for an editor called BBEdit. Their slogan was “It Doesn’t Suck.” I was reminded of that this week reading through the comments on a TechCrunch piece about AOL’s new mail beta.
The comments reflect an all-too-common negativity toward AOL. I’m always amazed at how many passionate AIM users don’t recognize what the A in AIM stands for.
AOL, Google and Yahoo! all have a wide range of products, some that meet my needs, some that don’t. I use these products daily:
- AOL: AIM, AIM Phoneline, Engadget, Mail (work), X-drive
- Google: Gmail (personal), Gmail IM, Maps, Reader, YouTube, mobile maps and mail
- Yahoo!: flickr, Go, My Yahoo!
I also use Blue Dot, LinkedIn, MediaWiki and WordPress daily. They fill geek needs that the big four don’t adequately satisfy.
One thing that the commenters are missing is that companies on the scale of AOL can’t design products for tiny niches. One of the first things I learned as a product manager is that if I’m designing a mass-market product, I can’t design for me. As much as I love flickr, it’s not for everyone. AOL Pictures, Shutterfly and Kodak Gallery meet the basic needs of privately sharing photos and ordering quality prints. And they make it much easier to do this than Flickr does.
There are areas where AOL has been complacent. But we also have some truly innovative products in the pipeline.