There have been many Internet startups over the years that have started off with a boom, only to fade into oblivion. While Evan Williams, the co-founder of Twitter, said “having a large number of users and the inability to monetize them is a non-existent problem,” many online companies would disagree with him.
We found five companies that had an overwhelming number of users, but they couldn’t figure out a way to capitalize on and profit from their following.
1. AOL Instant Messenger
AOL never could draw in any profit from AOL Instant Messenger (AIM). AIM emerged in the late ‘90s as a key messaging chat interface. At the height of its glory, AIM had over 18 million users; even the folks on Wall Street were using it to communicate. The engineering team for AIM was in a constant power struggle with top AOL Executives about AIM’s role in the marketplace. The corporate team at AOL just could not accept a service being offered for free as the way of the future, when their profits were from a subscription service model.
One of AIM’s attempts at monetizing their product was through advertising links. They never specialized their advertising based on the individual user much like Facebook and Twitter does now. AIM never had success at selling ad space, advertisers showed no interest in buying up spots. No key advertising, no monetization.
In 2011, it was reported that AIM only held 0.7 percent of the messenger market worldwide when it used to be the dominant player. Even though AIM still operates, most of their clientele was lost to social media sites offering their own chat services.
2. Alta Vista
Back in the late ‘90s, before Google, there was Alta Vista. At one point in time, Alta Vista had a Web index of 20 million pages, while its competitors were hardly able to index millions. The Internet was still fairly new to consumers, and no tech company seemed to be able to figure out how to make money off a Web search engine, including Alta Vista.
Alta Vista was a pioneer in the Web search field, and they were one of the first companies to offer free email. Eventually, Google came along and figured out the market share and how to profit and started taking over the Web search marketplace. Alta Vista became a defunct site over time. Yahoo! picked it up through a merger in the early 2000s and eventually shut it down and absorbed the technology into their search platform.
Napster, a music file sharing service, changed the music industry forever, but it did not make any money while doing it. At the top of their game, they had 80 million users enjoying sharing music files, all downloaded at no charge. The music industry caught on, and the copyright lawsuits came in from musicians and bands that didn’t want their music downloaded at no cost (meaning no royalties for the artists).
At the end of the journey, Napster tried to switch over to a paid subscription service and monetize, but they were unsuccessful and shut down in 2001, later merging with Rhapsody.
Webvan launched a business based on grocery delivery in 1999. The CEO had a “hunch” that at least 35 percent of the marketplace would be purchasing groceries online by 2003. At the end of 2000, they reached several thousand homes, but the order dollar amounts were low and the company was losing money. By 2001, the company had to call it quits.
Webvan invested too much of their capital funding into warehouses, trucks and offices for customers who never came. Instead of slowly implementing their service and building a customer base, the grocery service blew 1.2 billion in funding. Webvan failed due to expanding too quickly, budget conscious consumers, low sales volumes, overspending, weak profit margins and no firm customer base.
Amazon Fresh has since resurrected Webvan, including some of its corporate teams, and they are slowly expanding into markets nationwide.
By 2003, Friendster had millions of users worldwide and was considered one of the hottest startups in Silicon Valley, receiving endless technology awards and garnering a lot of attention.
The downfall of Friendster was riddled by its inability to adapt to the user’s needs and by technical problems, including a slow loading website. The social network also tried to monetize through advertising too early on, instead of focusing on building their customer base.
Friendster did not have newsfeeds and the personalization that Facebook and MySpace offered early on. MySpace lured away a lot of Friendster users by learning from Friendster’s mistakes and implementing a different social media strategy. Facebook came along, and the rest is history. Friendster is now a social entertainment and gaming site operated out of Malaysia.
It seems online trends change every day, and the audience is fickle. One day you can have a winning online business model, and the next day your time has passed. It is best to strike while the iron is hot, and figure out a way to monetize your popularity.
Photo: Jason Persse
Find John on Google+ Many people would love the flexibility that comes with escaping the corporate grind, like scheduling their own day and not worrying about organizing child care. Working from home seems like an ideal setup and some companies have figured out how to make it benefit their bottom line as well as their employees.
Here are five companies succeeding at offering work from home opportunities.
Industry: Call Center/SaaS
Over 20,000 people work for LiveOps as call center agents, taking calls on behalf of large corporations as well as calls from customers interested in buying something they saw advertised on television. People who work for LiveOps are independent contractors based in the USA, enjoying great perks, like free training, flexible hours and great rewards.
There are various positions available with LiveOps, including advanced sales agents, outbound agents, bilingual agents (English/French or English/Spanish), roadside assistance agents, and licensed insurance agents. You have to be at least 18-years-old to work with the company and the typical sales and inbound agents can earn from $5.00 to $10.00 per half-hour, depending on call volume and bonuses.
While LiveOps is a great company to work for if you’re sales orientated, motivated and in search of a flexible position, the room for growth within the company is limited.
Industry: Document and IT Services
Xerox is a leading document technology and IT services company, founded in 1906 and currently employs over 140,000 people in 160 locations worldwide. Xerox manufactures photocopiers, projectors, scanners, printers and related supplies. The company also offers workflow solutions and consulting services.
Xerox’s Virtual Workforce Program currently employs around 5,000 contractors who perform duties such as customer care, tech support, image tagging, programming and business support. The company’s wages are job dependent and generally lower than the market average, but, because of the flexibility they offer, it makes them an appealing alternative to working in a corporate environment.
Xerox also offers a Heroes@Home work program, geared toward army veterans and their spouses. Xerox values those who have served in the military and offers them an opportunity to shift careers.
Whilst Xerox does have jobs that are work-from-home, they are not plentiful and often depend on the job and the location. If you do get in on this opportunity, you’ll be happy to know there are opportunities to progress your career, advance, or transfer to a branch office.
Industry: Insurance, Health Care
Humana is a Fortune 500 company serving healthcare consumers in the United States and Puerto Rico. The company offers a wide range of health and insurance products and has won workplace awards, including Best Employer for Healthy Lifestyles from the National Business Group, making it an appealing choice for job seekers.
Currently, about ten percent the managed healthcare company’s approximately 28,000 employees work from home. The types of work-at-home positions offered are for registered nurses, medical coders, chart auditors, insurance representatives, accountants, writers, personnel recruiters, physicians, sales professionals and web specialists.
Humana is a great company to work for, according to current and former employees who have reviewed the company on GlassDoor. It scores well in all categories, especially work/life balance, and most reviewers say they would recommend it to a friend.
Industry: Information Technology
About is owned by IAC and is an online information repository which covers 78,000 topics created by over 1,000 writers, who are described as the heart and soul of the company. It was founded in 1996 and has over 90 million unique visits monthly.
Freelance writers are contracted to share their knowledge in various fields, writing articles on a flexible schedule from wherever they choose. Wage is dependent, but typically grows with page views and experience.
5. Accounting Department
Industry: Accounting Services
Accounting Department offers bookkeeping services to small to mid-sized and fast growing American businesses. They hire qualified bookkeepers and accountants as well as assistants and salespeople. In this technological era, outsourcing is a popular course of action for businesses, and this created the opportunity for qualified individuals to work at home.
If you are applying with Accounting Department, be ready for a rigorous testing and interview process, as they hire only the best accounting candidates. Employees are assigned to companies in their time zone and are required to keep the same hours each week. Potential for growth within this company is high due its close-knit team and huge potential for increased business.
Of course, these are only five of the companies currently offering opportunities for employees to work from home. Do you currently work for a company that allows you to telecommute? What are the best opportunities that come with this perk?