Now, no one will confuse AOL with the Gang of Four, but the company just bought local photo sharing site Hipster. I doubt that this move or any others will return AOL to a position of prominence. Rare is the company that can recover its previous mojo. Ditto Yahoo with its Facebook lawsuit. These companies’ recent actions smack of desperation.
Contrast these moves with those of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google. The Gang of Four plays an interesting combination of offense and defense–and so should any company in the Age of the Platform.
Apple does whatever it wants these days. It doesn’t much care about the reaction of “the market” because, in many instances, it makes the market. Even when playing defense (like with iCloud), Apple seems to do it offensively. Facebook also acts decisively, only retracting when absolutely necessary (read: public outcry over privacy concerns or something in that vein.)
Google has been playing a good bit of defense lately. For instance, Google+ and the release of Android seem like fundamentally defensive moves. One could say the same about Amazon and the Kindle Fire.
Defense isn’t bad. In the Age of the Platform, though, it has to be played intelligently–and quickly. Emerging platforms and the lack of physical barriers to entry necessitate it.