Sixteen years ago, the government stopped AOL from building a closed system where everyone had to use AIM, meaning it had to adopt interoperability. The decision provides a blueprint for how the government could similarly regulate today’s gigantic internet platforms: many see Facebook — with its over 2 billion monthly users — as having egregious control over our relationships on the internet. If Facebook were forced to make room for other services on its platform in the same way AOL made room for other chat apps, new services could emerge.
Trying to build a competitor to Facebook in 2017 is “just insane, it doesn’t make any sense,” said Stoller, who is writing book on the history of monopoly power in the twentieth century. “It would be like starting a competitor to your local water company.” The FCC’s decision freed other companies to build new, better instant-messaging apps without AOL standing in their way. And frankly, AIM wasn’t able to keep up with them. If Facebook were to actually compete in the market, it might die too. And in its place, something better, or at least different, could emerge.