Time Warner's (NYSE:TWX) AOL is a major chapter in Northern Virginia's high-tech history. Since I've lived in the Washington, D.C., area just about all my life, it seems particularly poignant that AOL is now moving its headquarters to New York City -- and maybe a little scary, too.

AOL's campus in Dulles, Va. has been a significant employer in Washington for many years. AOL's move to New York feels like taking Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) out of Redmond or Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) out of Silicon Valley.

Of course, in recent years, AOL hasn't been the steadiest port in a storm. I know at least one person AOL hired and then let go during one of its many cycles, when it staffed up only to staff down again.

Admittedly, Time Warner's current rallying cry concerns advertising revenues, and when you think advertising, New York is a logical place to be. However, the move says a lot about AOL's changing face. AOL let its technological edge slip away ages ago, when it lost sight of how Internet use was evolving.

AOL said it will leave most of its 4,000 employees in Dulles and move executives to New York City. One wonders how nervous that will make those left behind. A Washington Post article theorizes that a lot of AOL's talent may start looking for new challenges, and that Time Warner hasn't ruled out the idea of cutting employees. I'm sure that idea went through many heads when hearing of AOL's move: not a great boost for employee morale.

Maybe it's the end of an era for AOL, and the start of a new one. It could be that the people who believe Time Warner will set AOL free as a stand-alone entity might be wrong, given its strategy to bring in advertising dollars, even while moving away from its roots. Moving away from the "soul" of its business was something that also concerned me about Time Warner and AOL last spring.

Media and advertising do go hand in hand, but shareholders should hope Time Warner remembers that content is king.

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Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any company mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy where content is king.