The more things change….
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 was the first significant overhaul of United States telecommunications law in more than sixty years, amending the Communications Act of 1934. Among the changes were:
- The Internet was included in broadcasting and spectrum allotment
- Title 3 (“Cable Services”) was controversial, as it allowed for media cross-ownership. The goal of the law was to “let anyone enter any communications business—to let any communications business compete in any market against any other.” The legislation’s primary goal was deregulation of the converging broadcasting and telecommunications markets.
This opened up a host of opportunities to enter the field of Telecom. Many providers and companies entered the marketplace, providing products and services that essentially broke up the “old school” of Telecom with the “new cool” entrants. And of course, the emerging new Internet models were a Wild West.
I myself worked for a CLEC (Competitive Local Service Provider) and cut my product development and management chops on the new services we were offering to Internet service providers (ISPs) to essentially allow their users “local access numbers” for their dial-up (remember all those CDs you received in the mail?) services.
So with the recent announcement that Verizon – who had purchased AOL last year – had acquired Yahoo! I started to think about the ISP market and how the inbox has evolved and changed in the last 10 years. (Forbes described the Verizon/Yahoo deal as the “Saddest $5 Billion Deal In Tech History.”)
It’s funny how the breakup of old Ma Bell (the Bell System had a monopoly providing local telephone service in the United States and Canada; it was split into entirely separate companies in 1982) led to the Telecom Act revisions which then led to innovation and thousands of miles of fiber being laid across the country to support what was to become the development of the commercial Internet.
Fast forward to 2016 and now we see some of the bastions of Web (and we’re not talking about Pets.com) properties essentially vanishing back into the very organizations that were broken up 40 years ago.
AOL – gone. Yahoo! – gone. Swallowed by Verizon. As David Gelles noted in the New York Times: “If Verizon has its way, it will cast off its reputation as a big, boring telephone company battling a unionized work force and emerge as a digital media player mentioned in the same breath as Snapchat and Pokémon…It’s quite the pivot. At first glance, the acquisitions have almost nothing to do with Verizon’s main moneymaking activity — selling data plans to its roughly 110 million cellphone customers.”
So what happens next in the evolution of Yahoo!/ Verizon inboxes? With the combination of Yahoo! and AOL, Verizon will be a major inbox provider globally and one could reasonably expect that major changes will be coming to their inboxes.
What Verizon did with AOL email accounts
Well, the good news is that their acquisition of AOL didn’t have a dramatic effect on deliverability and it’s probably safe to assume that the Yahoo! acquisition may have the same effect – for the near term.
It probably won’t affect your list much, either. People with AOL addresses didn’t have to change their email address; Verizon actually upgraded AOL email accounts with unlimited storage and more room for email attachments.
What Verizon might do with Yahoo! email accounts
The analyst are of one mind on this one: No one expects any real changes now, as ABC News reports:
- In the U.S., Yahoo is the second most-popular email service behind Google’s Gmail. It’s even more popular in Europe and Latin America. Because of that, it makes sense for Verizon to keep that brand affinity intact, eMarketer analyst Paul Verna said.
- With 225 million users worldwide, “they would be really foolish to do anything to mess that up at least in next six to 12 months,” said Randy Giusto, lead analyst at Outsell.
- “I think Yahoo becomes a sub-brand just like AOL has,” Giusto said.
Looking ahead, however, once the integrations of those properties are consummated, and with the search power and advertising capabilities that Verizon will now have access to, getting into a Verizon inbox will be based on increased factors, including relevancy, targeting, and user-engaged behavior.
As we can see, the industry continues to evolve and the “New Internet” companies and organizations that are now being built in a college dorm room or someone’s coffee table will no doubt have an effect on the future of the marketing channel.
You can look to the past but embrace the future, which is exactly what Google did … and look where they are.
Side note: In 2015 AOL still had approximately 2.1M dial-up accounts. (Remember dial-up?) It’s good to see that they are still using my old “Remote Net Connect” product.