free html hit counter Interview: Jonathan Miller, AOL - John Battelle's Search Blog

Interview: Jonathan Miller, AOL

By - July 12, 2006


My interview with AOL’s Jonathan Miller is up now on CNN/B2.0.

Excerpts:’s true that too much of our innovation was locked behind the subscriber wall. It was less than a year ago that AOL moved out onto the Web, launching, which is such a good broadband portal that our friends at Yahoo (Charts) have redesigned their homepage to look a whole lot like it.

…AIM turns out to be more extensible than I think anybody would have imagined. As it turns out, it can be used for real-time voice communication, not just text. Adding in video chat and other things is another opportunity.

….All the players are trying to do the same fundamental things: e-mail, search, and now social networking. MySpace is the newest entrant – the new kid on that block, if it turns out they have real staying power.

The new entrant before them was Google. Everyone else in the rest of the group -Yahoo, Microsoft, and so on – is more than 10 years old, which I think is important to consider. Achieving one of those primary positions is genuinely difficult; it doesn’t happen every day.

I’m less concerned about them and more concerned about the startups and other companies that might be gaining on us. If a hundred companies achieve the kind of scale we have, then the pie gets much more fragmented. As it is, there’s plenty to go around between Yahoo and us and the others. …

…Are we ready for a partial spinoff that would give us a stock currency of our own? We’re still not quite there. This year we are very much in a process of transitioning the business. And there are very positive signs.

….What’s your takeaway from the Google deal?

Well, I think the process reminded people that AOL has real value on the Web, and it was nice to be wanted. I think that was healthy for our company. We had to decide whether to extend a great partnership with Google or start competing with it. At the end of the day, it was too much of a jolt to leave Google.

And at crunch time, Google indicated a willingness to do some things with us that hadn’t been on the table before, like letting us sell search ads directly to our advertisers and making a $1 billion investment in us. On the other side, with Microsoft, it was difficult to figure out how to run the proposed business.

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One thought on “Interview: Jonathan Miller, AOL

  1. One question that would have been great to get a response about, would have been the AOL Search Engine.

    Up until a couple or years ago, it was the #4 search behind Google Yahoo and MSN, and prior to that it was a fairly popular search engine since the mid 1990s.

    Why did AOL not attempt to become an independant search engine as oppossed to using Algos from Inktomi then latter Google.

    Had they invested successfully in Search,they could have become much bigger

    Surprise…surprise, Now Earthlink is incorporating Web 2.0 elements into their Portal