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AOL introduced flat-rate monthly subscriptions at a mass market price - which defines Internet service to this day.
Right, because no one else would have ever come up with this idea, right?
AOL's software hid its complexities from the user.
It also hid that it installed so deeply in your system you needed a virtual colonoscopy to find all its parts and remove them when you finally realized that the software and service was crap.
It stripped away the last vestiges of the BBS.
And this is a good thing, why?
It had a graphical UI, automatic updates. You didn't have to configure an e-mail account. You didn't have to understand file transfer protocols.
This I can't argue too much one b/c it did make web browsing accessable to the common person. Which I believe is in part the basis for good software and hardware. If something isn't usable it isn't going to go far. And then (when AOL was big) and now the majority of computer/internet users are not Power Users, they are not Programmers, they are not that computer savvy. And making tech that is easy for people to use is going to be a main driver in development and marketing. So yes, they did make a "smart' decisions in this respect. Except that I don't believe that AOL's implementation of their GUI was good, I mean come on after all it was AOL.
The user experience wasn't so very different from the modern stand-alone web browser. That made the transition easy.
It also meant that Internet would never again be the geek's private playground.
And I think the internet no matter how fancy your GUI is will always be the geek's private playground.
Sounds more like meth to me...
+1 Considering some of the "techs" Verizon and Comcast have sent out to my locations this is most likely the case.