The ability to create applications around platforms is what is driving social media today. Developers are making a killing by developing applications for Facebook, the iPhone, Twitter, etc. But what many people don’t realize is that AOL was one of the original platforms to develop applications around. Sure there wasn’t a such thing as APIs back then, but a lot of developers today started by building software intended to modify AOL services.
I remember back in the late 1990’s, I knew at least 4-5 people that spent time on Visual Basic creating an application that enhanced AOL chat rooms. That is around the same time when Warez groups on AOL started. Each Warez group would team up on building different applications. These applications would be similar in functionality but different in branding. A lot of the functionality would have to do with requesting MP3s in chatrooms, punting users offline, and sending a lot of ASCII pictures in a chat room at once. Those were the days.
Now look what we are stuck with today. Some of today’s popular Facebook Applications revolve around taking quizzes, describing what music and movies you like, and what your zombie vs. werewolf score is. Yawn.
However it is interesting to know that AOL was the inspiration behind Facebook’s application platform according to Mark Zuckerberg.
“I remember when I was a kid in high school, some of the first things that I built were add-ons to AOL. All of my friends were on AOL, and I built tools for IM or servers to run chat rooms, and I just had so much fun and that?s how I learned how to program. I just think it?s really interesting to see the new generation of college students that are growing up and building on top of this platform, and anything that we can do to encourage that is awesome,” stated Zuckerberg in an interview with InsideFacebook.