This week About.me announced it was buying itself back from AOL, a little more than two years after the company had been acquired by the large web media conglomerate in late 2010.
When About.me first debuted as a site for simple, personal landing pages for individuals, it appeared to fill a hole in the market. While there was no shortage of social sites on which to hang one’s digital hat and possibly serve as a web user’s primary digital identity, there was no central platform for nontechnical users to create a space that served as central web identity hub that aggregated all of these different digital identities together.
At the time of About.me’s debut in 2010, many more-technically sophisticated and design-savvy users had already started to develop their own digital aggregation hubs using blog platforms like Drupal or straight HTML, but for the most part typical users were not doing so. But then About.me arrived, as well as other digital identity hub sites like Flavors.me, and soon nontechnical, or casual, web enthusiasts had a central location to list all of their presences on the web.
Fast-forward to 2013. The web has continued to march forward, and new digital and social aggregation sites like Rebelmouse have popped up to compete with personal splash-page sites like About.me and Flavors.me. Google has also jumped into the social networking game with Google+, which subsumed many of the search giant’s previous efforts for digital identity.
At the same time, About.me continued to evolve while under the AOL umbrella. It incorporated dynamic feed updates using RSS, advanced its analytics, and offered an About.me email service, all while retaining — for the most part — the simplicity of the offering.
Going forward, there are a few obvious routes for monetization for an independent About.me. One is to take a page from Tumblr and WordPress and charge for custom themes and domains. Another is to expand its small business and professional offerings. It already offers business cards, but I would expect it could also look at paid small business pages that could even incorporate some light commerce hooks.
Whatever direction it chooses, with a fresh funding round I’m intrigued to see what About.me becomes as a newly independent entity.