What happened to AOL, Ask Jeeves and Netscape?

In the early days of the Internet, we had giants that seemed to be impenetrable; however, as we all learned, they each had an achilles heel. Here are a few notable examples:


What it was/is: AOL has a long history on the internet, being one of the first companies to really get people online.

Throughout its lifetime, it has been involved with a number of high profile acquisitions, perhaps the largest of which was the 1999 acquisition of the Netscape Communications Corporation. Netscape was known to many as the leading technology in web browsing, and had developed a number of complementary solutions that allowed for a rich suite of internet tools. During its peak years, AOL had 34 million members and was worth $200 billion.
What happened?: In February 2008, Jeff Bewkes, the CEO of Time Warner – announced that the company’s intention to split AOL’s web access and advertising businesses in two. There is a possibility of selling the web access division at a later date – which means that the once-great AOL internet access services became practically helpless. The lesson learned is that companies which deal with ever-developing technologies need to stay abreast of not only the technologies, but the latest developments in terms of the mood of the subscribers. Otherwise, when you combine the changes in applied science with other, more subjective, factors, your once-great company will suffer under the duress.

Ask Jeeves:

What it was: Dominant search engine for 10 years at the AskJeeves.com web site.

What happened?: The Ask Jeeves search engine for over 10 years now, but many Internet novices found the AskJeeves.com domain name name easy to mistyped. At one point, Jeeves was proclaimed to be the most often misspelled search engine on the Internet (Wordtracker reports that the misspelling “Geeves” still gets thousands of queries each day). In 2001 the company shortened its name and did away with its butler mascot to merely become “Ask.com.” When you just ask Jeeves a question these days you actually aren’t asking “Jeeves” anything. What you ARE doing is using a powerful search engine that built its name and reputation on delivering answers to questions asked in natural, everyday language. The other main difference–and one Ask hopes will make it stand out from the crowd–is its stance on ads. The message was clear: Fewer ads displayed above search results reinforces the company’s commitment as a serious search engine.


What it was: Netscape was the original web browser (like your Internet Explorer or Firefox of today).

Netscape advertised that “the web is for everyone” and stated one of its goals as to “level the playing field” among operating systems by providing a consistent internet viewing experience across them. The Netscape (web-internet) browser interface was identical on any operating system.

What happened: Netscape’s web browser was once dominant in terms of usage share but lost most of that share to Internet Explorer. By the end of 2006, the usage share of Netscape browsers had fallen, from over 90% in the mid 1990s, to less than 1%. The Netscape brand is still extensively used by AOL. Some services currently offered under the Netscape brand, other than the web browser, include a discount Internet service provider and a popular social news website. In December 2007, AOL announced it would no longer be updating the Netscape browser.


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