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AOL Hopes to Change Image With Services 197

Posted by Zonk
from the watch-for-low-flying-pigs dept.
Geoffrey writes "'In an effort to earn a new reputation as a leading Internet destination, AOL will open up to a wider audience on the Web through AOL.com. The portal will re-launch in beta form on Tuesday, offering visitors free Web mail, exclusive audio and video content, and access to a number of AOL services previously available only to subscribers,' reports BetaNews. The new AOL.com will highlight news from the blogosphere, offer free access to 15,000 videos, 130 radio stations, and 20 XM stations. In addition, AOL is launching an RSS aggregator that aims to make RSS actually simple for normal Web users. And unlike MSN's RSS endeavor, My AOL will work in Firefox, Safari and other browsers."
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AOL Hopes to Change Image With Services

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  • Sorry AOL (Score:5, Funny)

    by chadpnet (627771) on Tuesday June 21, 2005 @01:20PM (#12873713) Homepage
    I hate to break the news to you but you are 12 years too late.
    • Re:Sorry AOL (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Austerity Empowers (669817) on Tuesday June 21, 2005 @01:29PM (#12873835)
      AOL was a useful service once upon a time, like compuserve and prodigy. Technology has obsoleted it, and now they're struggling to find a place in the world.

      Unfortunately corporations reach a point where they feel like they must be immortal. Sometimes you make something people like for a while, then they don't need it and you need to find something else to do. It's no ones fault, it just happens. Time to move on, do it gracefully, help your employees move on and then close up shop.

      AOL however seems to envision itself as an eternal net parasite, preying on people who don't know any better. At least they could make nicer coasters.

      --
      Austerity Empowers, Councilor for the Undead
      • AOL was a useful service once upon a time, like compuserve and prodigy

        Ah yes, Compu$erve, where you were charged by THE HOUR to use their service. I think they had premium services too.

        Didn't they also have some networked air combat flight sim many many many years ago, before online multiplayer games were commonplace?
        • Ah yes, Compu$erve, where you were charged by THE HOUR to use their service. I think they had premium services too. Didn't they also have some networked air combat flight sim many many many years ago, before online multiplayer games were commonplace?

          I seem to remember the flight sim, yes. I also remember thinking they should have implemented an online snail racing game to maximize revenues from their insane hourly rates.
        • Prodigy and AOL both used to charge by the hour, too. My dad's beating arm was very sore after I spent 45 dollars playing Prodigy's maze game.
        • Ah yes, Compu$erve, where you were charged by THE HOUR to use their service.

          And back around 1990-1995, it was *the* place to go and get hardware/software support for a lot of things. Not to mention the lively crew in the CANOPUS forum, which was a good place to find out tech news 1-2 months ahead of when PCMag would report on it.

          I used to spend $50-$100/mo on CompuServe. For the time, it was money well spent as it kept me up-to-date on all sorts of technical topics. The signal-to-noise ratio was qui
      • Re:Sorry AOL (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Scaba (183684)

        Like Nokia. They started out [wired.com] making rubber boots and toilet paper.

      • Re:Sorry AOL (Score:3, Informative)

        by joeljkp (254783)
        Pack up and go home? A coporation is indebted to its shareholders to maximize whatever value it can squeeze out of the legal side of the market. Companies like AOL should retool and go after something else, not close up shop completely.
      • Re:Sorry AOL (Score:2, Informative)

        by dp619 (893918)
        You may have this deficit in your knowledge of AOL: They have 109.7 milllion uniques per month. This places AOL second only to Yahoo, which had 118 million uniques as of March 2005. With this audience they do have an opportunity to build a strong Web presence provided they do not screw it up. If you follow the progress of their betas you will notice that they arel istening. The latest example being the removal of AOL browser from AIM 5.9 as a forced install to replace the faceless AIM Today Window. Perce
      • Re:Sorry AOL (Score:3, Insightful)

        by joelsanda (619660)
        Time to move on, do it gracefully, help your employees move on ...

        Maybe that's what they're doing now? "Closing up shop, as you call it, is just stupid if they can reinvent who they are and evolve.

        Ford made cars that were overtaken by technological advances in automobile design. They didn't "close up shop" - they evolved and improved their product (I drive a Jeep, so that's an assumption).

    • Yes and No (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Gruneun (261463) on Tuesday June 21, 2005 @01:39PM (#12873939)
      A few years ago, I'm sure plenty of people told the Google guys that they were a few years too late for making a search engine.

      AOL's problem is the Internet-for-beginners stigma that's attached to their name. My bet is the better move would be to dump their millions into a new brand, push their current user base towards it, and hope the non-AOL users will underestimate the connection.
        • A few years ago, I'm sure plenty of people told the Google guys that they were a few years too late for making a search engine.


        • AOL's problem is the Internet-for-beginners stigma that's attached to their name. My bet is the better move would be to dump their millions into a new brand, push their current user base towards it, and hope the non-AOL users will underestimate the connection.

        If AOL pulls this off it could benefit them greatly, lots of people are willing to pay for actuall usefull services o

    • by Scaba (183684)

      No, this is just a typical AOL "Me too! [catb.org]" response.

    • Re:Sorry AOL (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Momoru (837801) on Tuesday June 21, 2005 @01:44PM (#12873997) Homepage Journal
      Um...great idea AOL, offer even LESS of a reason for people to continue paying for your service? Right now the only reason to stay a member is for the "exclusive content" (oh and the delightful chat rooms?). Now they are taking a lot of that exclusivity away? For the love of God AOL, you are a part of Time Warner...surely someone somewhere can see a better way to leverage all that media power???
    • So it's a perfect time for a change.

      AOL has always been "training wheels for the internet."

      It always improves a twelve year old's image when he removes his training wheels . . .

      :)

      hawk

  • Frankly.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by aldatur (893868) on Tuesday June 21, 2005 @01:21PM (#12873725)
    I think that AOL will always have a stigma with geeks of being a piece of crap. And to tell you the truth, I have a bad feeling that this new service set will only confirm that stereotype.
    • by dsginter (104154)
      And to tell you the truth, I have a bad feeling that this new service set will only confirm that stereotype.

      But more importantly, how will this decision threaten Linux on the desktop?

    • More importantly, many geeks, myself included, endure great suffering in order to educate regular people about how much AOL sucks. It's pretty great when a computer novice has that "Eureka moment" and suddenly understands why I've been telling them to ditch AOL for the past several years.

      Plus, I think it's healthy for the geeks to interact with computer users who are operating at the total-neophyte level of understanding. I was reminded of this recently when I realized a good friend (car buddy, has almost
    • Yes that stereotype will probably never go away. But every now and then I see something advertised with an "AOL Keyword" that I would like to know more about...

      Maybe now I'll be able to check out some of that stuff without having to be a member.

      Of course I have to wonder how bright some of these companies really are, restricting their advertising to the limited userbase of AOL, instead of just putting it up on a website.

      Maybe AOL is offering free bandwidth in exchange for exclusivity...

      New web

    • Although on the other hand, many geeks use AIM as their primary IM client. It's not really any more or less geeky then Yahoo IM or MSN Messenger.

      Some people use gAIM or Trillian, but they still use the AIM protocol.
      • Hey, if we could convince people to use jabber or some designed secure IM, we would. It's just that IMs are limited to those on the same network, so they are only useful if you are on the network your friends use. I've tried converting people to other networks, but the best I've managed is to get some using Trillian as well for somewhat secure IMs.
        • I like the idea of Jabber, and I've had a Jabber account for several years. Honestly I only know of one other person who uses it. I don't think I've ever had a conversation over Jabber.
    • I know exactly what you mean.

      Although, I figured they would have saved an announcement this important for September [wikipedia.org]
  • by 1992 Called (893858) on Tuesday June 21, 2005 @01:22PM (#12873729)
    They want their crappy ISP back.
    • Back in 1992, AOL wasn't an ISP (asside from maybe e-mail). They were an "online service" providing exclusive content to their members, just like Prodigy and CompuServe. Of course this was back in the day when "the internet" as we now know it didn't provide as much to the average home user, and such independent online services did have their place.
  • by perigee369 (837140) * <perigee369@gmaiOPENBSDl.com minus bsd> on Tuesday June 21, 2005 @01:22PM (#12873732)
    " All your RSS are belong to us..."
  • Hey AOL (Score:5, Funny)

    by all yr bass r belong (893681) on Tuesday June 21, 2005 @01:22PM (#12873749)
    All your user base are belong to us.

    -- The rest of the Internet's ISPs
  • I don't know... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by udderly (890305) on Tuesday June 21, 2005 @01:23PM (#12873752)
    Does anyone out there think that this will work? Personally, I think that the only thing that has kept AOL from folding is the sheer size of their original user base. But they are dropping off like flies due to broadband.

    I would be very surprised if they could pull this off.
    • Re:I don't know... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by chris09876 (643289) on Tuesday June 21, 2005 @01:28PM (#12873822)
      I predicted about 10 years ago that AOL would die, and they're still alive (struggling, but still kicking). I still think that the demise of AOL is coming (and long overdue), but they seem to find new ways to stay alive (becoming part of Time Warner, etc).

      I would also be surprised if they could pull something like this off... the internet portal market is already quite crowded. I just don't see room for another yahoo-type service
  • Oh great.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by slummy (887268) <shawnuthNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday June 21, 2005 @01:23PM (#12873758) Homepage
    Sounds to me like a bait 'n switch. If they're going to offer these free services, rest assured they're going to try and pound a subscription up your ass every step of the way.
  • by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Tuesday June 21, 2005 @01:24PM (#12873778)
    AOL is launching an RSS aggregator that aims to make RSS actually simple

    I notice they don't intend to change what kind of users they want to attract. I mean, how hard is it to use RSS these days? it's just one click to install a RSS newsreader (unless they're running into Bezos' patent or something).
    • KDE has already done this... there is a little orange rss logo at the bottom right hand of the web browser when you visit a site with an RSS feed. You click it and it is added to KDE's RSS reader.

      Simple
    • I mean, how hard is it to use RSS these days?

      It's easy once you know what RSS is. People who come across the little orange RSS buttons that have never used an aggregator before just ignore them. It's Really Simple Syndication once you understand the way things work, but the first time blows.

      With that said, I don't think this is going to help AOL much at all. Yahoo has done this already [yahoo.com], and they've done it pretty damn well. They have external feed providers who, in addition to a normal RSS feed link, prov

  • Everyone will like it because its logo will have the word "Beta" in a cute little font down in the corner.

    It's the cool thing to do now, doncha know??
  • by jarich (733129) on Tuesday June 21, 2005 @01:26PM (#12873797) Homepage Journal
    What AOL ought to do is start distributing the latest version of Mozilla and Open Office on all the CDs, right alongside of their own ISP software. Then people would actually keep the CDs around instead of pitching them.

    This would be a huge PR coup for AOL as well a boon for the open source community.

    I actually got an AOL CD with my newspaper last week-end!

    • What AOL ought to do is start distributing the latest version of Mozilla and Open Office on all the CDs, right alongside of their own ISP software. Then people would actually keep the CDs around instead of pitching them.

      Yes, not only would they keep the CD's, they would call AOL for tech support on every OpenOffice question or issue they have. As for the PR coup, it might score with geeks, but guess who their market is not?
    • Wow, no kidding. If that was an original idea, it's the best one I've heard in a long while. Mozilla, OOo, Firefox, Thunderbird would be great. But I'm betting that if AOL was going to distribute a stand-alone browser with their ISP poop it would be the new Netscape.

      Are there any licensing concerns with any of that stuff being distributed with AOL software?

      • If that was an original idea, it's the best one I've heard in a long while.

        Thanks! It occurred to me while I was throwing out an AOL CD this weekend...

        Are there any licensing concerns with any of that stuff being distributed with AOL software?

        I don't know... I'm sure any of the packages mentioned would be more than will to be distributed though...

  • by coop0030 (263345) * on Tuesday June 21, 2005 @01:27PM (#12873809) Homepage
    Maybe if they didn't make it a bitch to cancel the service, we wouldn't be afraid to try them out again.

    Seriously, after canceling from them (I tried it for free for a month); I will never, ever, ever sign up with any of their services ever again.

    They like to put you on hold, and then keep offering discounts, and finally they will cancel your account...if your nice to them...after about 25 minutes of bantering back and forth.

    That is what ruined it for me. The free CD's don't even bother me.
    • Yeah! That actually has a lot to say. If you got some test-time, you will win a lot if you announce it with a text like "no binding sign up" or something (that beeing that it actually isn't binding!).

      I've noticed this my self. In sevral accations I have signed up on stuff just because of the sign up not beeing final, and then after the free tryout, signed up for the full product.
    • From their Member Agreement http://legal.web.aol.com/aol/aolpol/memagree.html [aol.com]:

      You can cancel your membership by delivering notice to AOL's Customer Service Department at 1-888-265-8008, by sending your cancellation request via US Mail to: America Online, Inc., PO Box 17100, Jacksonville, FL 32245-7100, or by fax at (904) 232-4879. Cancellation will take effect within 72 hours of receipt of your request, and AOL will send you written confirmation. If you cancel near the end of your billing period and are
    • YOU had trouble cancelling AOL! You!

      It's been over five years since I convinced my parents to drop AOL for an ISP, and they still don't know if they have AOL or not. (Though the calls for "cancel AOL" support from them have dropped off in the last couple of years!)

    • HERE, HERE!

      I've despised AOL ever since I tried their 28 day "no risk" free trial back in 1994-ish (I was in a bind and needed net access and their trial was the only option open to me.) I went from assuming it would give me net-access at noon to despair at their service at 2pm (having failed to download a 50K file over FTP) to cancelling my trial at 4pm after spending 2 hours on the phone to their customer services waiting in a call queue from hell. I was assured my trial would be terminated automatical
    • I had trouble cancelling too, and I found that the quickest way to get through the people on the phone is to tell them that you switched to Linux.
    • by sTalking_Goat (670565) on Tuesday June 21, 2005 @02:43PM (#12874650) Homepage
      Back 96 when I would use one free trial cancel it just before it was up and start another I had this down to an art.I could get a cencellation put through in about ten minutes.

      I had free internet service for about 8 months until they caught up to me and threatened to sue. We settled on a lifetime ban.

      Looks like I'll outlive them.

      HaHa!

  • by mislam (755292) on Tuesday June 21, 2005 @01:28PM (#12873825) Homepage
    I am sorry to say this but just because all the services that they are now happily giving away will NOT make them a better service provider. If they could not provide good service to customers who paid 23.95/month how can anyone expect that the free users will get a better service?
  • I don't understand the constant media attention over the blogging "phenomenon". They've been around since the beginning of the Internet, why is blogging news? Although it will be nice to watch the handful of companies trying to turn a marketing buck from them crash and burn.
    • Breaker 1-9 (Score:2, Insightful)

      by HomerJayS (721692)
      In 1978 everyone had to have a CB radio. In 2000 everyone had to be in an IRC chatroom. In 2005 everyone has to have a blog. Same sh*t, different box.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Are they pulling from AOL blogs? I always wanted to have a collection of stories from high school girls about the prom and make-up.
  • MSN's RSS Endeavor (Score:5, Informative)

    by Carnage4Life (106069) on Tuesday June 21, 2005 @01:31PM (#12873859) Homepage Journal
    The article links to the wrong URL for MSN's experimental RSS reader. The right URL is http://www.start.com/myw3b/ [start.com] and it works just fine in Firefox as well as IE.

    If you are interested in the developments of the RSS reader you can check out some of the blogs by the folks working on the reader such as Steve Rider [msn.com] and Sanaz Ahari [msn.com].

    Disclaimer: I work at MSN
  • Good job, AOL. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Leroy_Brown242 (683141) on Tuesday June 21, 2005 @01:31PM (#12873867) Homepage Journal
    You have the user base

    You have the manpower

    You have the money.

    Now go forth and make yourself into an ISP that doesn't suck.

    There is a long road ahead of you though.
    • They're not trying to be an ISP anymore: they're trying to be Yahoo. They are using their user base as an instant audience. It is a significant number of people, enough to pull it off if they all stick around and click through the content. Whether they stick around, however, is up for debate.
  • If you really want to change your reputation, here is something you might want to try. It will be difficult for you, but it is well worth it.

    STOP SUCKING!

    Really. Adding new features that suck and letting everyone use your old sucky features that were previously only available to members does NOT qualify as not sucking any more.
  • I'm not even sure that's really the problem with AOL. Most of these services are already being provided by independant web sites or are rolled into the user homepage of many broadband ISPs. Why bother going to another page to get substandard audio/video feeds when your SBC/Roadrunner/whatever homepage does most (if not all) of that for you? I don't think anybody is really in the mood for another AOL browser on top of this.

    Most people I know don't even associate AIM with AOL, and when that's the case, prov
  • AOL with their annoying kiosks and the salespeople hawking over bystanders. I have convinced more than one person to move away from them, right in their salespeoples faces. Their bundled browser/bad service is what drove us geeks away (among many other things). AOL software feels like it was made for pre-schoolers.
  • Hurrah! (Score:2, Funny)

    by brontus3927 (865730)
    I think this is a good thing. Why? Because I collect email addresses. I already have two aim accounts (gaim is my best friend!) so there's two new email accounts right there. Add them to the two gmail accounts, two yahoo accounts, a netscape mail account, 5 hotmail addresses, and 3 corporate emails. Now I'm up to 15 email addresses!
  • by Markvs (17298)
    That "AOL is the Internet!" just wasn't enough???

  • AOL image (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Back in the 1990s I went to University by train. My University had many computer science students and most of them took the same train I used to commute to my "Big U".

    So what do you do while on a train? Read tech magazines/periodicals of course. (Note: Back then notebook or laptop computers were to freakin expensive for the average CS student. That's right kids, no WLAN back then.)

    And in all of those magazines and periodicals there were those "FREE AOL CDs". Tech savy as we were, we knew AOL was crap. So
  • All you need to do is put the RSS feed in the bar in firefox and bamo - a pulldown menu with all the news...what could be easier?
  • Too much mindshare (Score:3, Insightful)

    by RealProgrammer (723725) on Tuesday June 21, 2005 @01:36PM (#12873918) Homepage Journal

    AOL has brand name recognition with just about everyone in the U.S. The trouble is, when I think of AOL I think of those stacks of CDs in the Wal-Mart checkout isle and the endcaps at supermarkets. I don't think about any content I'd like to see there, despite the number of "content parters" they've signed up over the years.

    It's the same reason Compuserve is such a non-player on the Internet. The industry shifted out from underneath them.

    AOL wasted way too much corporate energy convincing their customers that they were the Internet, and didn't expend enough effort drawing in non-AOL dialup users with their content. Didn't they sign up exclusive content, so you couldn't get there unless you subscribed to AOL?

    They're now paying for misreading the market, for not realizing that the money was in clicks, not in subscriptions.

  • Because they turned me down as a beta tester back in 1992 - true story
  • IMO heres why: #1. Your solutions are no longer usable/feasible/needed. Everything you are offering everyone else has and has for a LONG TIME. #2. People arent leaving you b/c you never had these services, they are leaving [theregister.co.uk] b/c your service sucks balls, you bill 23.95 for dial up when someone can AT LEAST pay that much for DSL -lite and in turn can get online whenever they want which in turn doesnt make them keep dialing up and dialing up and keeping getting busy signals. #3. Quit LIEING with your ads a
  • When are big ISP's going to learn that people don't give a shit about what content they bundle to justify their prices but simply want somewhere to plug in and do whatever they want? Who wants to pay for the sanitized politically correct content of Time Warner?
  • While I was preparing teach a computer users class, I signed up for AOL's 40,000 hour free service that expires in 30 days. (Yes, I know!) I managed to keep using Mozilla and Mozilla email as I learned a little about using AOL. The main problem I saw was that AOL came on like Clippit X100. Everytime I tried to do something, AOL popped up with some screen that tried to offer choices I did not want to consider. And, unless I remember incorrectly, I could not do anything on the internet without the same
  • by theurge14 (820596) on Tuesday June 21, 2005 @02:00PM (#12874158)
    When Time Warner and AOL merged, the word was that AOL was going to become a media mega-empire of the Internet, that we would see all these exclusive and great media services streamed from AOL. You know, wild ideas like watching TV on the Internet and having the ability to send fullscreen video emails to your grandparents with no hassle.

    Instead, we have TiVO and Skype and Windows Media Center and the saddest part of it all is AOL is losing out to broadband. Wouldn't that get the IRONIC tag on Fark?
  • AOL's problem? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Solr_Flare (844465)
    - Bloated Client
    - Treating its clients poorly
    - Making the dollar its first and highest priority, and being obvious about it.
    - Not truly changing with the times, instead just putting a new gloss(and more bloat)to its same, tired, design.
    - Using spam type methods to try and hook new users(the famous coasters).

    They did this to themselves through years of mismanagement and just settling for the status quo. They forgot they got to the top by out-innovating the competition like compuserve and prodigy,
    • - Bloated Client
      - Treating its clients poorly

      So... what you're saying is that AOL should offer some niceties like complimentary gym memberships with their accounts! This can tie in with our little orange running-man commercials perfectly, and we can kill two birds with one stone! It's genius!

  • "Amateurs On-line","A**Holes On-Line", I'm sure there are far more and far worse. Most experienced Net users associate them with being a low-quality and/or "training whells" type of internet experience. You know, the service you're loathe to admit you used before you know what the Internet was? A name change would go a long way to removing that image.
  • by Alioth (221270)
    If I hear the buzzword "blogosphere" once more, I think I'm going to vomit!
  • I thought for sure their next move would be the classic "Let's offer more free trial hours."
  • by X_Bones (93097)
    So if all this neat stuff is available via the Web, what's the point of paying them a monthly fee?

  • that was their most valuable service to me, back before they allowed their customers onto newsgroups and irc.

    i'll throw a few bucks at that if they'd start that again...
  • My AOL will work in Firefox, Safari and other browsers

    It works, but the layout of http://startpage.aol.com/beta.adp [aol.com] is seriously b0rked in Safari. Text layout is the biggest problem - text overflowing the little graphical boundaries on the page, horrible vertical alignment, etc.

    Here's a screen shot [dontfearthemeeper.com]. Not pretty at all. Submitting it to Browsershots [browsershots.org] (screen shots of a site rendered in all major browsers) should be interesting.

  • Thank you, AOL! I think this is a really good idea!! I'm sure lots of people will come over to AOL now!!! Yay for AOL!!!! Now undoubtedly the best ISP ever!!!!!

    Now, maybe, finally, we can have our newsgroups back after AOL chokes and dies. It's only been, what, 12 years since the black day they opened up the newsgroup feed ... I'll bet there's some freaking awesome Smashing Pumpkin and Nirvana bootlegs in there! And nekkid pictures of Tiffany Amber Thiessen!

    Party on, Wayne!
    Party on, Garth!!
  • You bought Nullsoft, the creators of Winamp... and then laid off most of their employees. I'm sorry, but I will NEVER trust you again.
  • Safari already has a built in RSS reader that I'm pretty sure is better than anything AOL is going to dish out.
  • From TFA:
    "In an effort to earn a new reputation as a leading Internet destination, AOL will open up to a wider audience on the Web through AOL.com."
    Now, does this mean it will come equipped with an official translator? [homestead.com].
  • AOL has always provided two rather valuable services. The first is that it got a lot of people using the internet who otherwise wouldn't have. This has lead to a lot of good things overall.
    The second thing AOL has done, with perhaps mixed success, is to act as a sandbox and aggregate all of the worst, most clueless (l)users and sort of partition them off from the rest of the net. They have their own "web" of aol sites, their own chatrooms, etc. I shudder to think of the state of IRC if the AOL users al

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