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Founded by a group of Harvard and MIT graduates, PlanetAll was a social networking site that provided users with services such as smart address book, group communication, date reminders, calendaring, and more.

Launched in 1996, PlanetAll is known to be the first social networking site on the internet. The site had more than 100,000 groups modeled after real-world groups such as employers and institutions.

Users could enter the name of their university and get a list of other students who were registered on the site. If two users wanted to get in touch, the website conducted authorization before the two users could access each other’s contact information.

While many websites back in the day offered address books or calendar functionality, PlanetAll was the first one to combine the two. Users could enter their travel plans into the calendar and PlanetAll would match their destination with their address book to inform users if any of their contacts were in town.

PlanetAll was acquired by Amazon in 1998.

Cause of Failure

When Amazon acquired PlanetAll, its founder and CEO Jeff Bezos raved about the innovative service. At that time, PlanetAll had been growing fast with 1.5 million members and counting. Bezos saw the potential of the service and predicted that it would be one of the most important innovations in the future. While Bezos was not wrong about the potential of social networking, Amazon failed to leverage it like Facebook soon did.

In 2000, just two years after acquiring PlanetAll, Amazon announced that it was shutting down the website. In an email to the users, Amazon informed them that they had integrated some features of PlanetAll into Amazon.com. These features of PlanetAll were transferred to Amazon’s Friends and Favorites area which allowed customers to manage wish lists, view their friends’ wish lists and get updates on certain reviewers. PlanetAll’s features were also used in Amazon’s Purchase Circles. As for the calendaring features, Amazon only retained the date reminder function.

A spokesperson for Amazon revealed that the reason behind shutting down the service was because it seemed redundant with the Friends and Favorites feature already available on Amazon.


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