When AOL bought Userplane 3 or 4 years ago, I was happy for the team but at the same time bewildered.
AOL, with has AIM, buys an IM company?
At first I thought they would merge the two products. Userplane execs told me that both platforms were so differently structured, that integration of one into the other was nearly impossible.
So it appears AOL left the business on its own: a profitable operation. It appears AOL's philosophy was 'don't fix what ain't broken.'
In the last year, 2 significant things happened:
(1) Michael Jones (former CEO) left
. As part of his buyout, he stayed on for a year or two, then was to leave. Clearly, Jones had significant influence over the day to day running of this profitable venture. His departure at the time was not seen as earth shattering, but for point 2 (below) he was desperately needed.
(2) After the market crash in late 2008, AOL began significant cutbacks on all expenditures
I personally noticed a change with the company for the 2009 Miami event. Since inception, Userplane had exhibited as a significant sponsor at every Miami iDate show. They contacted us, upset over the fact that the parent company had restricted their budget for the industry's most significant event of the year. While only 2 employees attended from Userplane, long time attendees noticed a change in the fact that the company was not exhibiting.
As time progressed, AOL had no interest in the operation. There may be politics (ex: "its not AIM
"), but the company simply did not want to spend any more on Userplane, even though it was profitable
So, AOL had 2 options:
A) Sell the venture. This seemed plausible considering that Userplane had the lions share of the online dating IM market.
B) Kill the business by closing it.
C) Move all customers to AIM.
Killing it made ZERO sense. But that's what AOL decided to do. They tried to quietly. (Like NO ONE would notice.... DUH).
At the end of the day...Userplane is NO more.
We are having this subject discussed at the conference in LA next month. Several dating operators expressed a strong interest in this subject.
What is interesting is that an entire market has opened for IM alternatives.
I have created a preliminary list for those of you interested in who else to go to. I am not sure if they will take your business (some do), but it is a list.
Internet Dating Conference
LIST OF VIDEO AND AUDIO INSTANT MESSAGING (IM)
ALTERNATIVES FOR THE ONLINE DATING MARKET