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America Online

AOLization of America 199

PanchoNB wrote to us with a feature that C|Net is currently running about the AOLization of America. I think it's been called the "McWorld" concept before, but the feature does a good job of looking at how powerful Time-Warner-AOL really is, as well as talking about the history and prospects.
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AOLization of America

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  • So AOL/TW has traditional media (publishing, movies, music, tv), the pipes (cable networks), software (ICQ, Netscape) and the portal (AOL dial-up service). Wouldn't the logical thing be for Congress to break it all up, a la Ma Bell, into different competing divisions along those lines?

    Sure, it's not as simple as waving the Slashdot wand at them (new def. of the Slashdot effect?), but maybe we should start pushing for that monopoly investigation now. Look at how long it took to get the MS process even this far along...

  • ... that I'm finding is that people are being hired into positions where most of their "Internet" experience has been AOL. I've hit a few situations where bringing up topics covered, say, in RFC's is met with completely blank stares because they've never heard of USENET, (or RFC's). This has evolved to the point where on some projects I'm working on, other members of teams are proposing "radically new ideas" that are just re-hashes of things that existed on the net years before AOL, etc., yet for THEM since it wasn't on AOL, it wasn't on the Internet. Another example: in providing user support for a portal site, we've had to apply the suffix "@aol.com" to e-mail addresses without an @ sign because changing them manually (or dealing with the after effects of just ignoring the problem) became too time consuming. In each case, there's the assumption that AOL is the Internet, or that the Internet is largely AOL. (Of course, one can also insert "Microsoft" there too --- I've had too many discussion cum arguments trying to convince people that Microsoft didn't "invent" the Internet any more than Al Gore did.)
  • by coaxial ( 28297 ) on Thursday April 20, 2000 @09:38AM (#1120602) Homepage
    Remember the infamous "Please send me pics of Sheryl Crow naked. Thank you" messages plastered all over USENET in summer '95? And there's countless other examples.

    ME TOO!

    :)
  • I wish to call out to everyone who wants to stop AOL or Big Brother-take your pick. AOL should be stopped at all cost. Do we really want to live in a world where we are told what to do and when to do it? We must come together as a true community to destroy "the Party". Vive la resistance!
  • I think the generally accepted idea of "monopoly" is taken too literally. True monopolies only exist in economics textbooks. In the real world there are varying degrees of market control, but when a company gets to a point that it has "monopolistic" power, it means that it controls enough of the market to effectively shut out competition and effectively control that market. It's sort of like why the Sherman Anti-Trust Act came about in the first place. Nobody had to use oil - they could always live in caves, gather berries and hunt wild animals to eat. Still, oil was an important input for industry, etc, and thus Standard Oil represented a threat to competition and the overall health of the American economy. It's similar with the AOL or MS monopolies. More importantly, in cases like MS and AOL, I think this has negative ramifications for democracy. We, as decision making voters, are meant to have various sources of information from which we can make opinions. Sure, there will be other information sources available to consumers, they don't have to use AOL or Microsoft, but they most likely will because they're too busy to surf the web for hours on end like many /. readers. AOL will have the ability to control (too) much of the content and news that people recieve. The result could be an even more poorly informed public in the future than the one now (the one that gets its news from shallow, 2 minute news stories).
  • This is mainly to blame on what happened during the industrial revolution in America, and the changes it brought around. People during the industrial revolution were not neccessary the brightest, smartest people around (face it, they would work in big cities with little pay or opporunity) and would easily be fooled by brand names.

    Society is getting smarter now days. People are putting more pressure on companies to clean up their acts (how come McDonalds and Walmart seem to advertise all of their "community services" the provide?). Still people are a bit to easily swindled, although the Internet is helping some of these problems.

    Large monolithic companies use these stragies all of the time, and sometimes large companies are good, but most of the time they are reality of modern society. (I mean, is it pratical for everybody to manifacture stuff on their own scale, nope?)

    disclamer: I don't usually visit walmart (the size scares me), I don't eat a McDonalds, and I don't particularly by brandname clothes. I do however buy mostly brandname electronics and conmputer gear.
  • Folks,

    I personally think that the article written in C|Net is proof that the AOL merger with Time-Warner is going to have MUCH more serious side effects than any power that Microsoft wields in the software market.

    The reason is simple: control by a few people a _very_ large fraction of our mass media outlets. Between all the AOL divisions and Time-Warner assets, they can effectively have a very large say in what we read in general interest periodicals, on we see on television (over-air broadcast, cable AND direct satellite), what we see in the movie theaters, what we hear with records, and soon what we read on the Internet. This is media control that Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst at the beginning of the 20th Century could NOT begin to dream about, and the fictional Elliot Carver from the James Bond movie TOMORROW NEVER DIES is no longer a far-fetched character. To say it has harmful effects on the expression of free speech is a major understatement, to say the least.

    At least with Microsoft Windows 98/2000, you can run alternate web browsers from Netscape and Opera Software, use streaming-media programs from Real Networks and Apple, and even use alternate office productivity suites from Corel, Lotus/IBM and Sun/StarOffice.

    AOL will eventually give obvious preferential treatment to Time-Warner mass media output to AOL users, and this is VERY bad for its competition.
  • I'm reminded of a Dennis Miller quote: "Think of the average person in America. Now realize that 50% of America is dumber than that."

    George Carlin, actually. Unless Dennis Miller stole it. A sobering observation, nonetheless.

  • Computers are a new thing yet. Especially people who are just hopping in now. Give them a few years and they will get it.

    You not giving people enough credit. People are smart. If people are looking to find out about computers and technology, then AOL must comply. It is why Capitalism works. Businesses change based on the needs of the consumers.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    why do you think the media has been reporting on that? they completly ignore all of the political organizing that's been going on with the internet. the huge growing anti-corporate movement that's been spawned out of the internet. they ignore how the internet has redefined independent journalism. all of the good stuff the internet has done, all of the stuff that is a threat to the corporate empire is ignored. instead they sell the internet as the place filled with evil hackers and kiddie porn freaks. and of course these same media companies all have long term plans to someday subdue the internet, to buy or merge their way into the internet, to censor it to suit their needs. it's all corporate strategy: how to maxmize profits while maintain control. look at the big picture of what's going on, you'll see the Corporatists long term strategies.
  • Cable: ~$40/month. For some reason, it seems to be far more widely available in Canada than the U.S.
  • A problem of this magnitude calls for more than just a man - it calls for a Man of Steel!
    Faster than a speeding packet!
    More Powerful than a linux server!
    This looks like a job for...
    Oh. Wait, forget it. AOL owns Time-Warner, Time-Warner owns DC Comics, DC Comics owns Superman.
    Hmm... Any open-source superheroes out there?
  • Obviously the customers thought differently and decided that "drool-proof" was indeed an added value worth paying extra for.

    And this has led to a huge installed base that creates its own added value by itself. I joined after years and years of looking down my nose because certain communities are already big and up and running, filled with actual real people, wher it was irrelevant whether they needed drool-proof software or not. Specifically for me it was the gay male community out to hook up for quick sex - and since I preferr 'em big and stupid the whole drool-proof aspect is only an advantage, I guess. When it comes to connecting to humans within your own metropolitan area for some non-geek activity, the technological superiority of IMAP and HTML 1.1 and IRC just don't cut it over the non-geek drool-proof ISP filled with scores and scores of actual humans who just wanted to get online quickly to do the same thing.

    A quick look around other communities on AOL shows that it's the same for other groups, like, say, the teen market. But I really, really think that AOL made it almost overwhelmingly because of adults wanting to get laid in some form or another, an aspect of their growth nobody really wants to admit.

    When it comes to paying, drool-proof seriously rules for most people out there. The future is not going to be like Star Trek, the future is on its way to look more like LEXX

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Easily scared, aren't you?

    I got a good laugh out of that one. ;)

    Again, don't do it then.

    Ok, lets get serious for just a minute. The main problem ( and I agree with the poster that your responding to in this regard ), it that your average Joe and Joeanne on the street want convenience above all else.

    Reliability, much less privacy and security, are totally secondary to them.

    At least that is until they realise it's implications in terms of receiving a couple of hundred spam e-mails each day.

    By that point though, they are already too far gone. The system that they are using has become a crutch that they can't live without.

    This is a "marketing strategy" that has been very successful for Micro$oft and to a lesser extent, for AOL.

    This is one of the reasons why so many people are pushing for the development of more user friendly internet tools for Linux. Hard core geeks don't need them, but Grandma and Granpa do.

    To date, that seems to be the best way to prevent corporations like AOL from developing a stranglehold - by empowering the end users to make their own choices without requiring them to become experts.

    And yes, I'm veering way off-topic. ;)

    You might be strangling my chicken, but you don't want to know what I'm doing to your hampster.

  • I disagree, I think Brave New World is way on-topic.

    It discusses social engineering on a massive scale, in a much more chilling way then 1984 ever does.

    Oh Im so glad I'm a beta, cause Alpha's think awful hard....

    Thats where society could so easily end up... who watches the watchers. Even those with the best of intentions get distorted.

    Every time I reread BNW I get the serious shivers
  • To this very day, that's precisely what AOL represents... that enough money will overcome even the highest of principles, and that at some point, everyone sells out.

    Exactly what are these highest (it's 420, do you know where your ganja is?) of principles you speak of? If we were living in a more perfect world, maybe Netscape and Nullsoft would work to get more sane copyright and privacy laws around the world, music would be free, and you can choose to live your life as an anonymous coward using any encryption you want. Yet somehow things never worked out that way, and Netscape and Nullsoft were just software companies after all, and never really had these highest of principles to sell out on in the first place.
  • "Average" does not represent the boundary between the upper and lower 50 percentiles, median does.

    uh... not quite: mean, median and mode, are three meaningful "average" values in a population sample.

  • A quick observation... obviously, AOL owns Netscape! Can somebody then please tell me why they ship Internet Explorer (proprietary version) on their CDs? Hmmm? Anyone? Anybody ever thought that AOL=Microsoft? What if....

    --cr@ckwhore

  • I read your post because it intrigued me - I admire your willingness to express your opinion. I don't intend this as a flame, so PLEASE don't take it like that. I'm just really curious about why you feel so strongly that it's a Bad Thing (TM). Please fill me in, I'm honestly interested in the answers to my questions about this.

    Your primary complaint, "freeloaders leeching off the cable co's network," suggests that either the cable co. is being ripped off by people using their infrastructure or that you are having your bandwidth stolen.

    I have trouble believeing that the cable co. isn't going to protect its investment. Don't they charge rent on the modems? Aren't they charging access fees to cover their infrastructure costs? How would any of this change if they started allowing people to pay another company for the email accounts, web space, and Usenet access that accompany an account with an "Internet Service Provider"?

    So, assuming that the people taking advantage of the "open access" are still paying the cable company for the bandwidth, who loses? Even if the "new" ISP's can work the deal so that is costs the same to the end user (ISP fee + rent on modem + access fee == old fee paid to cable company for proprietary cable internet service) the same people would be signing up for the service as would have before. I don't see how it would attract a big crowd of new users, especially not big enough to saturate the network and create notable bandwidth problems.

    That's my take on the situation. All that, just to say, in a few words, "I don't get it." What issues have I overlooked? Are there other factors that I'm not understanding about the situation? Please let me know.
  • &nbsp

    wouldn't Parker Brothers' controlling interest in Monopoly constitute an illegal Monopoly monopoly?

    Check out the full story over at the Onion [theonion.com].

  • I'm tired of pointy-clicky internet services.. have been tired of said services since the day they came to be.. all they do is put newbies on the Internet that are completely LAME/trolls/etc.

    You'll get used to it. After all, you watch television, right? Who do you think they customize that medium for, people who actually have some vague notion of how a TV works, or just the average shmuck that'll sit through the commercials / pay the cable bill?

    Sturgeon's law applies to the TV as well as the internet - but I don't see a stampede of people disconnecting because of it. Evidently shit is in high demand.
  • I had an AOL account a few months ago. I had just graduated from college and was living at home for a month before moving. Didn't want to pay a startup fee at an ISP, just used an AOL trial.

    Open, click "sign on", walk away for 5 minutes, then minimize: instant, free, short-term ISP.

  • heh. ADD ME TOO!
  • I thought it was especially funny to see Disney, another media giant, ask Congress to keep an eye on Aol. That's the same Disney that owns ABC, along with lots of other stuff remember...maybe a bit of jealousy there?
  • Although not, I think, for the reasons stated.

    One of the great promises of the internet that caused everyone to buy into it in the mid-90s was that information distribution on the net was comparatively cheap (next to television or print) and, as a result, anybody could put anything on the net; it meant that information could be widely distributed in a way that had never been possible before.

    The risk involved in having a provider dominate the marketplace is that that won't necessarily be true. Not only could AOL choose to place 'filtering' software on its network, justify it on the grounds that it wants to protect its customers from evil things, and get away with it, but once it is large enough, it can put pressure on *other* providers to not host sites that AOL finds objectionable (by threatening to block the provider's entire IP range).

    Eventually, someone would step in with an antitrust action --- but it would take a while, and an immense amount of damage would be done in the meantime.
  • They forgot to mention a few things that drove me to loathe AOL:
    • Poor Customer Service (especially by telephone)
    • Mediocre software (don't get me started!)
    • Spam (spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, baked beans, spam and spam...)
    What scares me more than the monopoly idea (which I don't really buy) is the fact that AOL's overall mediocrity (spelling?) inures the newcomers of netizenry to universally bad design and crappy service. I mean, if Windows and AOL are what 90% of newbies are "trained" on, then how the hell are they supposed to know any better, or believe one of us when they are told about Linux or BSD or even Macintosh?

    AOL's software design habits are especially scary. Their programmers seem to intentionally ignore previous art, to the point where they reinvent every wheel, and seem to have a preference for square ones at that. Every new feature is hard to use, learns no lessons from existing public domain designs, and then they just leave it there, and don't fix it until it becomes a marketing tactic again. Mon dieu, their 1993 newsreader was the worst, and they left it that way for years before updating it, and it's still nowhere near as useable as any newsreader you or I would tolerate.

    OK, ok... rant mode off.

  • by Colz Grigor ( 126123 ) on Thursday April 20, 2000 @09:46AM (#1120626) Homepage
    I started getting into the "whole Internet thing" in 1992, not nearly as long ago as some of you, but certainly long enough ago to notice how much anti-AOL sentiment there was at the time. Anyone from AOL was typically banned on all of the IRC channels and I kept anti-aol filters in my trn kill-file.

    When Netscape became popular, I enjoyed downloading the latest preview releases and I reported my share of bugs. The whole idea of Netscape thrashing Microsoft in the browser war was thrilling! Microsoft was a giant, and as a rule I always root for the underdog (which reminds me... vote for Alan Keyes!!!). When Nullsoft released WinAmp, I found my entrance into the world of MP3s, listening to the latest in controversial technology.

    For me, Nullsoft and Netscape represented a change in the way the world worked... a departure from a centralized computer world. It was a world full of grey areas of privacy and copyright that I hoped would be worked out by a global consortium as opposed to the restrictive political regimes of any single nation.

    When Netscape and Nullsoft were purchased by AOL, a company that represented "the enemy" for me, I realized that everything I had hoped for and believed in had crumbled to the power of the dollar.

    To this very day, that's precisely what AOL represents... that enough money will overcome even the highest of principles, and that at some point, everyone sells out.

    ::Colz Grigor
    --

  • Ye gods, I guess anything PC is insightful these days.

    "Not everyone is as savvy as your average /. reader. Many, many people need AOL (or something like AOL) to get online."

    How about:

    Not everyone is as savvy as your average cookbook reader. Many, many people need McDonald's (or something like McDonald's) to get their daily nutrition.

    See how dumb that argument is? Leaving aside for the moment the question of whether AOL == online (not to mention McDonald's == nutrition), we still have the question of the analog to the "nice restaurant" ISP. Or, for that matter, the equivalent of the grocery store ISP.
    --
  • "What incident is this referring to? What comments were sold?"

    See the "Voice s from the Hellmouth Released in Paperback" [slashdot.org] story.

  • "AOL is doing us a favor, really, by getting so many people wired." Hmmm, I don't know about you, but I think I liked it better when the internet was less mainstream. - Ekapshi.
  • It's nice to think that over here in Europe AOL and TW are practically irrelevant. Europeans suck in their own way. Most of the ISPs are crap and the local news is just as bad as anything in the US. A story of a cow falling in a canal outside of Amsterdam actually was covered more than famine in Ethiopia or rioting in Zimbabwe.
  • Hehehe... "You've got ActiveMcScientology!" - Ekapshi.
  • What's needed is something more like PBS, but online

    Such as... PBS Online? :-)

    www.pbs.org [pbs.org]

    Disclaimer: My own work is on pbs.org. I'm the lead tech on the Zoom web site. :-)

  • How about an AOL-Time-Warner-Starbucks-Amazon-(Wal-Mart)
    merger? Talk about large, sterile, lifeless and faceless conglomerates.
  • Of course, if you have a 24/7 net connection, you don't dial-up and just connect to AOL via TCP/IP... though I heard they were getting rid of that / charging extra for it...

    Actually, I read an article in the Washington Post a few months back that mentioned the profit margin for BYOA users was much better than for dial-up.
  • Hey! No Fair! You got Baked Beans!

    Sorry, but the rest of us never got baked beans.

    Wait, I never signed up for AOL. That might explain it.

  • Face it: Not everyone is as savvy as your average /. reader. Many, many people need AOL (or something like AOL) to get online. They need the coddling, the hand-holding, etc. AOL is doing us a favor, really, by getting so many people wired.

    Whoa wait... why is this necessarily good? It's like having a driving school for blind people. Teach them how to drive with an instructor, but not by themselves. Who gains anything from these people going online? Most people go online just cause of the fuzz around it... who gets somehting? big companies. Most people dont need the net, and lots and lots and lots think that just because theyre anonymous they can harrass and ruin for others.

    If someone needs the net, teach him how to use it instead... it's not very hard my grandma managed to do it pretty well. When you teach your kid to ride a bike, you have supports for them not to fall... but anyone will agree that you remove those supports after a while so the kid learns to bike.

    Not everyone can be a guru, but anyone can learn.

  • Great. I suppose your kids still go on training wheels when theyre 30? AOL is more like the internet with diapers.
  • Linux is great. Too bad the people using it give it a bad rep.

    Too bad you cant use it with your great AOL... this has to be a troll.

  • CNet which is threatened by AOL (like all other non-AOL commercial sites) promotes AOL by linking to the downloads of their apps. If anything the CNet crew should have linked to the earthlink software and stuff like that. It would be like the US talking about how bad China is then pointing the way to the closest PLA recruiting office.
  • I've been saying this since the merger. Pretty soon everything most people see will be filtered through AOL. I do find it funny however that Disney is complaining about this, Disney does the same exact thing. What I see happening in the next couple years is everyone in America will be part of a few select groups. There will be Disney consumers, AOL consumers, Sony consumers, and a fourth class of people who are a little of everything but alot of nothing. Everything you hear, touch, see, taste, and have sex with will be licenses to one of a small handful of companies. A truely west coast economy. I just wonder what Disney brand vibrators are going to look like...
  • This isn't true. My Steve Case lunchbox has been on backorder for 3 months!


    That's what I love about them high-school girls. I get older, they stay the same age... yes they do.
    --Wooderson 1976
  • How about: Not everyone is as savvy as your average cookbook reader. Many, many people need McDonald's (or something like McDonald's) to get their daily nutrition. Wait, I've got a better one. How about: Not everyone is as savvy as your average airline pilot. Many, many people need TWA (or something like TWA) to get from Boise to Calcutta. Anyone can switch around the contents of a metaphor to make it sound right, but lets face it. I bet you weren't born with a keyboard in hand either. You had to start somewhere. The reason this post was moderated up is that being elitist won't get us anywhere. I don't like AOL any more than the next guy, but I have to admit that I was pretty fond of Prodigy the first time I used it years and years and years ago. The simple fact that all us l33t slashdotters are loath to admit is that we ALL started out there as a person equal in knowledge to a shuddering AOLer afraid to put the shiny round thing into the big scary computer. It's the truth. Knowledge, by definition, is learned. I'd rather start with Dr. Suess than Dr. Freud. -MadDreamer


    -Mad Dreamer
  • Im surprised aol hasnt tried to port its software to linux yet. they cause call it LAOL.Does anybody know if it runs under WINE? i wouldnt think it does. Think of it like this... How many Linux users do you tihnk would actaully consider running the aol software? A large portion of them are completely anti-aol... I could see why it would be useful if families were using it, then linux could be ran on "the sons" computer, and the sister can use it. (I'm not sexist...) Yes, it does run under WINE. It's on the ipmasq application site... I don't remember the name but you can get information off the ipmasq resource site...
  • So AOL takes over the existing Internet and turns it into a noisy squall of pop-up adds and spam.

    While they're doing that, we're drilling holes in our walls and ceilings and networking our home-built Linux servers to our neighbor's computers, our friend's computers, our PDAs, our friggen toasters, whatever, making our own internet, one that AOL can't control, and won't be able to gain access to. AOL cannot control the internet anymore than you can hold the oceans in a thimble.

  • This frightens me, it really does.

    Easily scared, aren't you?

    Expand that to the entire Internet.. since they're Microsoft supporters, we could see "This website ONLY WORKS with AOL and IE running under Windows . Any other systems WILL BE DEMOLISHED!" or something like that..

    First of all, AOL is a direct competitor of Microsoft and AFAIK they don't like each other too much. Recall the latest spat over InstantMessenger compatibility.

    Second, even if you meet such a site -- so what? As the old advice goes, don't do it then. Proprietary AOL content, not accessible otherwise than through AOL, exists and is plentiful. Does it bother me? Not at all. I just don't go there :-)

    Maybe, but remember how hard it is to get AOL5 out once you've put it in.

    Again, don't do it then. I don't remember how hard it is exactly for this reason. My need for coasters have long been satisfied and AOL CDs now go to trash (sometimes making a detour via the microwave).

    Sure, they won't take it ALL, but what happens when they apply their censorship to most of Usenet?

    Err, do you understand what Usenet is and how it works? AOL censoring Usenet is in the same class as processor-exloding emails.

    Kaa
  • Ummm, h ere [fool.com].

    --
  • The AOL/Netscape/Time-Warner (and possibly Sun) thing is only the start of the recognition of media as the future profitiable idea of the internet. They certainly weren't the first, but they'll definitely be the strongest for a little bit, until (of course) Microsoft catches up, perhaps with a purchase of NBC and @Home. The future, as it appears now, will be of consumers paying for digial media content - paying one way or another, with their plastic or their eyes for advertisements.

    Technologies such as QNX, BeIA, Linux, and PocketPC (or whatever they're calling it today) are in the forefront of the client-side devices, and they all have markets in the future in client-side devices. As people rush to deliver media over the 'net, we (the community) either have to 1. sit back and watch, or 2. form community sites of our own. I'm not talking about Slashdot here - while /. is nice, Andover.net (VA Linux) is a media company (division) devoted to making profits through application-over-the-web and other media ideas. What's needed is something more like PBS, but online - a sponsored but not advertised web media presence. Sadly, these animated gifs (and java ads) seem to be taking over the web.

    It's time for the community to take back the web!

    ---------------------------------

  • A lot of people say this about AOL/TW. But nobody ever gives an example of how they could possible control acces to all information. Do you really think they can acquire that sort of market share- and keep it? Will they make the information-disseminating mechanism propietary? (I doubt it.) Can you speculate at least a little bit and give us a realistic scenario? I'm genuinely curious.
  • But at least its getting attention now. A few people have mentioned that AOL is useful, indeed necessary, for the new growth of the net. However, as one of my friends (who works PR at an ISP) noted: Once an AOLer, always an AOLer. It's brainwash and dangerous stuff. Farenheit (sp?) 451 seems like AOL's inspiration, but they're on the wrong side! What happens when 50% of the internet (or whatever number AOL spouts now-a-days) cannot tell the difference between a web browser and an ISP?

    Do you use AOL? Oh, you're one of those Netscape users, huh?

    AOL is designed in such a way that users find it difficult to leave for 'real' ISPs. Like the transition to Linux from that other OS, AOLers are frightened by what AOL portrays as a 'difficult to use, big, scary, pr0n filled world where anyone can get plans to blow half the world apart or home-build napalm.' Problem with that is, much of the net's less pleasing content is hosted by AOL. I have to admit that my opinion is extremely biased (I was forced to use that pile of *expletive* for a while and I still have nightmares about logging in) but AOhelL is about as dangerous as a rabid dog on crack. I wonder if I actually had content there...

    -Elendale (thinks he's posted this to every AOL story now...)

  • I think it's a great strategy for AOL to do exactly what they are doing and that they should have every right to do it. Let's face it, no one is forced to use AOL. I wouldn't consider Microsoft a monopoly, and AOL has a lot more useful competitors than MS. I have never used AOL and never will. They have provided me with a great number of shiny coasters, and for that I am thankful.

    What is happening with ISPs is the same thing that has happened in every other industry ever developed. If you don't care and don't want to research the matter, you choose the biggest, most expensive, most overrated, and generally worst option of all. I mean, does anybody actually consider McDonalds to be "good food"? It's cheap, it's easy, and there's one within fifty feet of any point in America. However, that does not make them a monopoly.

    So, yes, if you are one of the poor saps who eats at McDonalds, shops at WalMart, watches the local news, and uses AOL, then your view of the web will probably be as bland as anything else.

    Turn up the radio, no fuck it, turn it off
    -- Rage Against The Machine

  • I was very very surprised to recently see an article about AOL-TimeWarner being potentially worse than Microsoft.

    The moment I heard of the merger, I knew it would happen, as did many others I am assuming-simply because it is the merging of two seperate markets to converge into one market...

    And...

    I can cite Steve Jobs, The Woz, Bill Gates, Jeffrey Bezos, Paul Allen, The Founders of Yahoo, Andy Grove, and Hewlett and Packard's brilliance...but Steve Case? He is a MORON; INCREDIBLY STUPID, he does not possess the intellectual capacity to head AOL-TW, his stupidity is extremely overwhelming
  • I was watching some s**t program on Irish TV that said "It's easy to find info on on the 'Net. Just type into AOL's keyword thing"

    I was absolutely disgusted that no-one realised that AOL!=Internet

    If I could remember more details I would have given the editors an education. (emails, letters, maybe even phone calls)

    I think it's about time we educated the general public that there is a hell of a lot more to the 'net than these chatrooms targeted at the technologically retarded.

    ------------------------------------------------ -
    "If I can shoot rabbits then I can shoot fascists" -

  • I mean come on AOL has their own little playground. People either like it and stay there or wise up and go out into the real world. No harm in that.

    Actually not really... Were you ever on EFnet while AOL had their IRC servers linked? Virtually every channel had *!*@*.aol.com banned cause of the amount of idiots. They like the intriguing places beyond the playground. I'd love if they wised up before they went into the real world but sadly, they dont. They spill over everywhere.

  • AOL controls media, politics etc.
    ie. what you think.

    Big Brother Style.

    MS domination just means different buttons on your browser ;)

    I am worried about AOL and will do my damnest to give out about them to people I know who are new to the 'net

    ------------------------------------------------ -
    "If I can shoot rabbits then I can shoot fascists" -

  • We are AOL, you will be assimilated, resistance is futile. What is this - Microsoft aren't so bad, look at AOL, well AOL doesn't have much hold on the world, mainly being the choice of non-techie Americans. Microsoft has a lock in on 90% of the world's x86 PCs and therefore is a monopoly, and a pretty nasty one at that. AOL cannot control the internet, and the guy with the `submissive bottom' has a huge choice of other ISPs to flash his bottom on.
  • Ok offtopic somewhat but I have to complain. After I posted that, /. decided it didn't want me using HTML. GRRRR...

    Anyway, since it was on the subject of people who know what they're doing, I don't want to look totally ignorant... here's that AGAIN...

    How about:

    Not everyone is as savvy as your average cookbook reader. Many, many people need McDonald's (or something like McDonald's) to get their daily nutrition.


    Wait, I've got a better one. How about: Not everyone is as savvy as your average airline pilot. Many, many people need TWA (or something like TWA) to get from Boise to Calcutta.

    Anyone can switch around the contents of a metaphor to make it sound right, but lets face it. I bet you weren't born with a keyboard in hand either. You had to start somewhere. The reason this post was moderated up is that being elitist won't get us anywhere. I don't like AOL any more than the next guy, but I have to admit that I was pretty fond of Prodigy the first time I used it years and years and years ago.

    The simple fact that all us l33t slashdotters are loath to admit is that we ALL started out there as a person equal in knowledge to a shuddering AOLer afraid to put the shiny round thing into the big scary computer.

    It's the truth. Knowledge, by definition, is learned. I'd rather start with Dr. Suess than Dr. Freud.

    -MadDreamer


    -Mad Dreamer
  • Actually, I think it's not. When the work on mozilla started, the old netscape code was threwn away and they started from scratch.
  • At least one issue here is that you really have no idea where the news you read is coming from. I've learned to take everything I read off MSNBC (or see on KING5 news, since they're the same thing) with a huge grain of salt. However, until I read that article, I was blissfully unaware that CNN was owned by AOL/TW. I made the mistake of thinking they were a respectable, independent news source. I don't see any news shows on my local public access channel. So, this mean that every daily news show I have access to on my cable TV (the provider of which is probably owned by AOL/TW), the news I hear on all the radio stations I listen to (which are probably owned by some large media company), and the majority of the news I get off the 'net (with the possible exception of Slashdot), are all owned and controlled by huge companies. The point is that the majority of the U.S. population does not take the time to watch the 6:00 news, then get online and check the facts with different news sources. People pretty much believe what they see on Channel X news, or read on msnbc.com. As an example, during the WTO "riots" (cough cough) in Seattle, I watched around 300 people standing in an intersection get teargassed by local police on Capitol Hill. There wasn't a single mention of that incident on any major media source. All the news reports focused on the same footage of six guys breaking windows downtown. Every story, however, does mention that "downtown businesses lost $18 million in damages and lost sales". Like it's a huge tragedy if *one* Nordstrom's store doesn't make their $10 million in sales that day? Who owns Nordstrom's anyway? It would help if there were some easy way to check who owned what company, and whose interests each company is likely pandering to. I haven't been able to find a site that really links this info together, does anyone know of a site that does, or some other relatively easy way to correlate this information?
  • Oh yes, all us Europeans are dead envious of a country where old ladies get shot by their next-door neighbours, and six year-olds shoot their classmates.
  • Because they didn't own Netscape when they started making CDs and because the new version of Netscape isnt finished yet.
  • Isn't that slower than their previous rate though?
  • Everyone comes in as a newbie. Even the original designers of DARPANET said that they expected to be taken off the project and replaced by "the experts" at any moment.

    Newbies are inevitable. Even when the whole world is wired to the hilt, there will be children getting online for the first time. The evil of AOL is not in the volume of newbies they bring in, nor the caliber of newbies they bring in.

    The true evil of AOL is that they encourage people to be AOL dependant. And in AOL's mind that means keeping them iiiignoooooraaaant as a steaming pile. How many AOL users think that the WHOLE Internet is a commercial product? How many realize that 'netiquette even exists, let alone what it might be? These people can't be fully faulted for not knowing; at the same time they are a nuisance or worse, and most have NO INTENTION WHATSOEVER of getting a clue.

    Those AOL user effectively value stupidity as something to be protected. How can anyone surf porn 90 hours a week and then say they don't have time to learn about the tool they've been using?

    Anyone who uses AOL should get on the clue train and go to a free ISP. People who don't understand the concept of a traffic network shouldn't be allowed to drive cars. People who think the internet comes on a CD will add to the stupidity level and be a time sink for the less stupid.

    If I EVER have a chance to bitch slap the people who built AOL, I'll use that chance to put my foot through their face.

    "A witty saying proves nothing." -Voltaire

  • Once an AOLer always an AOLer - hah! I started on AOL and Windows 95, and due to the poor quality of the software I switched to Linux, and will NEVER go back (except at work thanks to clueless PHBs).
  • Sieg heil! Fuck off Adolf, this is News for Nerds, not News for Braindead Nazi scum.
  • I did basically the same thing. I didn't have any internet access after school let out and needed to find a real ISP. I wanted something that supported shells, UNIX and was reliable. I got an AOL CD, installed, located my ISP in a number of hours and signed up for a real ISP. Have been with them ever since. So, AOL does have it's purpose---helping a user find a better ISP. :-)
  • Anybody surfing porn for 90 hours a week will find their 'tool' rather limp and lifeless.
  • Everyone seems so stuck on the fact that AOL censors its content. While censorship may be morally repugnant to the Slashdot community, Joe Blow average father likes the fact that his kids are protected from all of those evils of the internet that they keep hearing about from the media, which is now partially merged with AOL.

    That is the part that scares me. The media has had a love affair with all of the bad stuff on the internet for a while, only reporting about crackers and perverts and child pornography. Now Time-Warner has a reason to print those, and maybe at the bottom tell people about AOL's blocking of "questionable" content.

    The people on AOL that don't like those little signs that say "Please do not press this button again." will go elsewhere. And once elsewhere, they will persecute AOL users like AOL persecutes free speech. "This site is ONLY viewable in Mozilla, Opera, ..., and Lynx, if you are using IE or AOL, you're SOL."
  • There is a difference between "easy for newbies to learn" and "dumbed down tar pit". AOL doesn't provide education for the eventual graduation from AOL to the "real" Internet. AOL preys on new users and then purposefully keeps them clueless in order to keep them corralled (or however you spell that).

    As a thought experiment, imagine an ISP that is as easy to use as AOL (is purported to be). Now imagine that ISP had "cyber" training centers for learning to to use Internet-standard tools (irc, ftp, web, etc). The training would also include setting up PPP on your computer, some basic net safety (firewalling, anti-virus, etc). Does this sound good? Does it sound like AOL?
    --
  • I hope you had a chance to read the listing of assets that the combined AOL and Time-Warner group will have in the Columbia Journalism Review.

    I looked at that list and just the cable TV channel assets alone represents most of the high-profile channels on cable TV (the HBO channels, the Cinemax channels, TVKO pay-per-view, the CNN news channels, TBS Superstation, TNT, and Turner Classic Movies). We are talking AT LEAST _15_ channels of high-profile programming on digital cable and satellite TV!

    Like I said originally some time ago: while everyone here on Slashdot is zealously bashing Microsoft they are a bit mum and confused at what the AOL Time Warner conglomerate could easily do to stifle expression of free speech.
  • Don't get us wrong: building an empire is not necessarily a bad thing. AOL's widely available, easy-to-use Internet service has helped millions of new Netizens get online.

    Gee, now there is a good way to take any bite out of your article.

    It shouldn't be suprising though. AOL is doing what the market asks of you, just like microsoft did: expand your market, keep costs low, and keep profits up. They sure do this well: saturation marketing, easy to use, proprietary software, and poor connectivity and poor service.

    Microsoft got in trouble mainly because they are such pompous assholes. The justice department has to hit someone once in a while to make it look like it's doing it's job. They were the perfect target. As far as tactics AOL isn't necessarily much different.

    They *do* make the internet easy to use for people who have near zero technical ability, sure. But at what cost? THey don't mind censorship at all. They don't like open standards (which can be very profitable, although the flipside can be as well. I think that works better for hardware providers as opposed to software/service providers). They don't mind providing poor service, and they have had PR issues more than once because of their software.

    Would anyone here apply the same argument to microsoft? I don't think so.

    My main point is that the current market ideal creates and encourages these type of corporations. Wheter or not the government's role in this is good or bad is another debate, I think it's more important to show that capitalism is sliding down the slipery slope twords a more fascist model. Yes, I really mean that. It's all there for you to see. You hardly have to even read between the lines anymore.
  • "This website ONLY WORKS with AOL and IE running under Windows .
    So don't go to that site! We've been there. Remember CompuServe, Prodigy, and, yes, AOL about a decade ago? All proprietary and closed in terms of both access and content. Than along comes the Internet which blows those closed services out of the water. Most fizzle. AOL survives only by becoming an ISP for the dumbmasses. Unfortunately, no one has ever gone broke underestimating the American people, but so what? No shortages of alternatives exist thanks to the open model of the internet. If someone tries to close it up, they will be routed around in the marketplace just as the online services of the 80s were. Amazing what passes for "monopoly" these days....

  • Can you speculate at least a little bit and give us a realistic scenario? I'm genuinely curious.

    Sure, completely hypothetical:

    Lets say that TimeWarner continues to grow, and gains.. 90% market share. Quite unrealistic, but hear me out. They grow to this size by buying out competition, stealing ideas -- er.. innovating, etc, etc.

    So, when almost all people come home from work, and turn the evening news, they see AOL/TW news. The content is developed and censored/moderated/whatever by them. They fire up their web browser, and almost all news they see comes from the same place. Newspapers and radio, same thing. One source. It might not look like one source -- different names, but essentially, the news is coming from the same place.

    Getting back to my point of "I saw it on the news/read it in the paper, so it must be true" mentality, what's to stop a huge bohemoth like this media machine from hurting competitors, other than trivial laws (which we all know only work sometimes).

    What if AOL/TW is in bed with a presidential candidate (I'm being metaphorical here -- no, really)? Would we even KNOW about the other candidates? Most certainly, the most publicised candidate would have a somewhat unfair jump on the others.

    Think of coverups. AOL screws up. They let a whole database of all their clients passwords and credit card numbers be cracked. Would we know about it? Accountability gets thrown out the window.

    These are all worst case situations, of course, but.. well.. I'm paranoid.

    There's no HARD evidence that anyone ever landed on the moon.

  • Aye. Even Slashdot has been serving Amazon and Doubleclick ads for a while (see my sig). Those that haven't opted out of DoubleClick are inadvertantly assisting DoubleClick just by viewing Slashdot.

    It's a complex issue. Even if a few members of an organization want to Do The Right Thing(c), there are probably many others who just want to make money. If a company changes its mind, it's not necessarily because the company is talking out of two sides of its mouth, it's because there are two mouths.

    Also, any organization that becomes sufficiently large will have many opportunities to piss off their customers at one point or another. With many customers with many conflicting opinions, sometimes you have to just get on with business.
    --

  • that the average person isn't as smart as the average /. reader Do you read the posts on slashdot? The average Slash reader is a regurgitating moron who doesn't have an original thought in his/her head. There are many brilliant people here (I am not one of them) but they are far overshadowed by the trolls/zealots (which as far as I am concerned are about equal). Just because people may have had other things to accomplish in their lives before someone decided that we all had to be online to count for anything does not mean that they are not intelligent people. I mean come on everyone was a newbie at some point, NOONE is born with some innate ability to code perl. It's time you people got off your collective high-horses and realized the REAL problem with AOL, that being the fact that they will be supplying content to some 35 million people by the end of this year. *sigh*/rant off _marc
  • However, Disney's influence on cable TV is about 1/3 that of Time-Warner.

    Look at Time-Warner's cable TV assets:

    1. CNN news channels (CNN, CNN Headline News, CNNfn and CNN/SI).

    2. HBO channels (HBO, HBO multichannel, HBO en Espanol, Cinemax, Cinemax multichannel).

    3. TBS Superstation, Turner Network Television, and Turner Classic Movies.

    4. Time-Warner Cable, which owns 20% of the cable sytems in the USA.

    Have you noticed that all the assets I mentioned above are immediately recognizable to any cable and DBS satellite TV subscriber? NOW you know what I have serious concerns about concentration of media power with the AOL Time-Warner merger.
  • by redhog ( 15207 ) on Thursday April 20, 2000 @02:32PM (#1120711) Homepage
    The large companies does the same as was done in the former soviet union. Except saying it's for the sake of the people. And you call your country a free country?
    --The knowledge that you are an idiot, is what distinguishes you from one.
  • by unc_onnected ( 6084 ) on Thursday April 20, 2000 @10:14AM (#1120723)
    if aol succeeds in commercializing the internet, there is a good choice that will actually **increase** the so-called "digital divide" separating power users (like many but not all /. readers) from the great unwashed.

    how so? easy. most of the internet will become less useful, but more entertaining.

    the result will be more and more of the web being converted to pure entertainment plays, not even pretending to provide information (unbiased or not). and rife with marketing. in other words, most of the web will start to look like television. to be honest, this doesnt bother me much. i dont watch tv, and we all knew it would happen eventually. but not all of the internet can be whitewashed.

    the reason you can get 5000 channels and still be bored with all of them is that you dont have many people setting up tv stations in their homes for fun. it doesnt cost as much to set up web content as it does to broadcast stuff. so we will always have a certain subgroup of people publishing on the web whatever the hell they want.

    i suppose there is a possibility of infrastructure control that could hurt this, but i doubt it will happen. at&t, at the very least, certainly wont let aol/time-warner control the pipes- so we have at least two giants trying to prevent each other from controlling all bandwidth.

    in other words, the ability to produce quality, unbiased content is still there.

    but most of the people entering through aol will not be interested in investing the time or energy in finding that. so they will see all the marketing and electronic billboards set up for them, the custom-built ads created as "informative" sites pushing one product or another, and they will think that is all there is to the web.

    meanwhile, more saavy users will shun commercial areas (in part) to frequent more obscure websites with informative but more importantly LESS BIASED content.

    to those who argue that aol will buy out any site thats getting big enough, it is a consideration. but i for one think the great buyout of content is over, because (1) its hard to justify large sums for niche audiences and (2) it may not actually be worth aol's time or money to hit these small markets. they want to dominate larger audiences remember- and more particularly those willing to spend money, not cynical libertarian communist mp3-stealing hippie 3l337 h4xxx0rs like slashdot readers. (yes i know that was a self-contradictory exaggeration. but many people lump these groups together- and in any case they all represent people that are a pain-in-the-ass for aol or any company to deal with)

    i think more and more people will self-segregate based in part on their technical knowledge and the ability to really think for themselves. its already happening, has happened since the internet began- like various IRC channels, for instance, which have vastly greater reservoirs of technical knowledge than others. in some ways, thats probably a good thing.

    unc_
  • by Kimble ( 17437 ) on Thursday April 20, 2000 @10:57AM (#1120731) Homepage
    Take my father. Very bright guy -- scored around 1550 on his SAT, wrote programs in assembly on punch cards in the 60s, eventual fine arts major, very well-read, does cryptograms in his head.

    AOL user.

    Why? The only thing he uses his computer for is to receive and distribute email, with the occassional scanned-in JPEG of his granddaughter. I have no doubt he could set up an ISP account, but he'd rather be reading or coaching youth soccer or gardening or so on. For his purposes, AOL is just fine. (So is Windows, but that's another can of worms.)

    Moral of the story: Usage of AOL does not imply a lack of intelligence -- just a lack of energy used in getting online.
    --
  • This frightens me, it really does. It brings me back to my major concern with the DOJ attacking Microsoft, and seeing many many companies merge while they were distracted. We now have so many "neo-monopolies" it's frightening. And, this is AOL taking over here. AOL. The word that strikes fear into the hearts of millions. :P The question is, now that they have so much power, what will they do? We've already seen what they do when given the chance, with AOL 5. Expand that to the entire Internet.. since they're Microsoft supporters, we could see "This website ONLY WORKS with AOL and IE running under Windows . Any other systems WILL BE DEMOLISHED!" or something like that.. Overreaction? Maybe, but remember how hard it is to get AOL5 out once you've put it in. I spent an entire day de-threading a system with that. Why am I so scared of the images I get of AOL on every website, WITHOUT the GIF animation of the dude pissing on whatever's to the right of it. Sure, they won't take it ALL, but what happens when they apply their censorship to most of Usenet? Even to the search engines? Just something to think about.. -=- "What's this button do?" "Don't touch that!" *beep* "Oh, how interesting" "What happened?" "A little sign came down that reads, 'Please do not press this button again.'"
  • by Hard_Code ( 49548 ) on Friday April 21, 2000 @05:41AM (#1120734)
    "Not true! Who is more impressed by graphics-heavy web sites, and who is just as happy reading text with minimal formatting? Who sends email attachements as uncompressed .bmp because he can't figure out WinZip, and who religiously gzips every outgoing file? Who watches streaming video? Who listens to steaming audio? Who actually likes shocked and/or flashed websites?"

    And who religiously downloads the latest Linux minor revisions or does FTP installs? Who actually run and patronize the sites with the most hits? Who is running Napster and Gnutella? Who is running Freenet? Who is watching streaming audio and video? Well, Slashdot Radio fans and audiophile geeks at least. If AOLers are driving up bandwidth it is only because of the NUMBER of them. Bandwidth desire and usage per capita is much higher in the geek population, I'd say: witness geeks who run and patronize sites on T1's and then go home to cable modems and personal internet servers and do even more stuff on the net. How about geeks with portables, cell phones, etc? AOLers all thought the internet was AOL's network. It was only when the web and other internet applications became big and ubiquitous did AOL open up to the whizbang stuff.
  • by Wee ( 17189 ) on Thursday April 20, 2000 @09:26AM (#1120741)
    Face it: Not everyone is as savvy as your average /. reader. Many, many people need AOL (or something like AOL) to get online. They need the coddling, the hand-holding, etc. AOL is doing us a favor, really, by getting so many people wired. The trouble is that they, like everyone else from Sun to IBM to MS, want to own everything about it. They don't play well with others. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. I'd personally rather see the "online" world get bigger and more ubiquitous, even if that means people going through AOL and all their proprietary nonsense. There are people that just wouldn't get online otherwise. Of course, in my ideal world, AOL would be more open, even in small ways. Their mail system would support open standards and the chat (or "IM" or whatever it's called) spec would allow any other client to connect with AOL's clients, for example. There are plently of other things about AOL that aren't so great. But they really are doing the world a favor by getting everyone hooked up. Like I said, not everyone can be a guru, and a lot of people need their hand held. As long as that doesn't come with the outright exclusion of other systems and ideas, I'm all for it. You and I will still have HTTP, TCP/IP, POP, et al. to play with.

    -B

  • by bbleier ( 35947 ) on Thursday April 20, 2000 @09:29AM (#1120748) Homepage
    AOL was one of the strongest Open Access advocates, pushing for a diversity of backbone providers to be available end users. But that was back when they weren't associated with any last mile cable.

    Now, as part of Time Warner we do have something to worry about. This should prove a test of their character. Did they really want to give us choices, or were they merely leveraging themselves into the last mile.

    If we want to keep our backbone and protocols free, we really need to fight the consolidation of the Internet giants. Both backbone AND last mile.

  • by Wee ( 17189 ) on Thursday April 20, 2000 @05:19PM (#1120750)
    Yeah, I remember. I think. I've been online (in one form or another) since 1989. Are you talking about AOL's wonderfully orchestrated "integration" of their usenet client with the rest of the world's servers? When every AOLer who posted an article had three posts made for them (count the "me too"s -- I dare you). The day usenet died? I remember that. I don't think I've posted to a newsgroup since like 1994...

    And the famous spammers. They were based in Phoenix. I'm from AZ and remember them too. But your point is?

    Mine was that not everyone is an expert. Everyone starts out. And they're usually stupid. Back when I got online with my awesome dialup (remember Archie, WAIS, gopher?), I sounded like a moron ("What's this 'Online Oracle' that everyone listens to?"), but there were people to help me. Now, it's just more noise among the (rapidly diminishing) signal. Do I care? Yeah, sure. Would I like everyone to know what "RFC" stands for? You bet. Do I want the old days back? No way.

    I once tried using my brand spankin' new PPP account to look up Western Digital HDD specs in 1994. Couldn't do it: They didn't even have a www site; I had to a call (and pay for) a support line. There was no other way. And to think that just yesterday I got the specs for my brand new Quantum U2W SCSI HDD off the web and was up and running in minutes. (Seriously: How many of you would like to set up a new machine with old hardware, no hardware manuals/docs, and no Net connection whatsoever? I thought so.)

    Do I want to go back to the "elites only", "PHB wants to know what's the point to this 'web' thing?" ways? Not a chance. Would you want to?

    It's largely because of AOL that the web is so incredibly useful. More power to them, I say. Keep getting companies to put their stuff on the Web. I can't tell you how much I appreciate living in the age of the Biggest, Easiest Encyclopedia Ever Made.

    I never want the Internet to go away. Ever. If it takes AOL to assure that, then that's the way it is and there's no point in worrying about it. Just keep doin' what you're doin' and preaching what you're preaching. It's good for you and good for me. And who knows? Maybe a few AOLers will see the light and join us in making their Net experience possible? Things could be worse, you know.

    -B

  • While yes, I see the reasons why anyone with an interest in keeping the Internet open would be scared by the AOLization of the 'Net, I don't think it's so bad as the user above and countless others are fearing. It's a domination fantasy that Steve Case has, and that all of us have. Who wouldn't want to own the largest ISP in the world, along with two of the most powerful media outlets? It's just that he has the chance to do that. He's probably not out to screw all of us. He's just not willing to rest on his laurels.

    So what does that mean for us normal, God-fearing internet users? Probably not much. Just more "Mee Toooo"'s on Usenet. Maybe more of those annoying AOL triangles as sponsors or supporters of a site. His denial of MSN from AOL IMer is just shrewd business practice: why let someone else mooch off of the progress you've built? Especially if it's AOL's most-moneyed competitor, Microsoft. It's not as if IMer isn't free anyway. And while AOL can boast IM members as part of its base, we're not giving them any money, just using a product they're giving out for free.

    As for the fear that AOL sites will shut out those not using AOL browsers, I have this to say: The only sites that AOL is going to limit access to is members.aol.com sites, and who in hell visits those anyway? Seriously, if that happens, then AOL users can go to any number of free-hosting sites. And if it becomes a real problem, then some of the people using AOL will get pissed and go to a different ISP. AOL will recognize it's loosing members and back off.

    I have no doubt that AOL will limit web content to its users, as it does now. But that doesn't mean that all of us will be censored. How can AOL censor any of Usenet from non-AOL users? Besides being against free-speech laws, it's just not feasible.

    All that (and it's a lot) being said, I still don't like what AOL's doing. I don't like it that users think AOL IS the web, when there's so much else. I don't like it that people don't think they have more options that are just as easy as AOL (Mindspring, NetZero, etc.) I don't like it that such a bland and idiotic corporation will be controling as much as it does.

    But I do like the fact that, someday, its practices will have to stop. This is highly theoretical and somewhat wishful, but there might come a day when advertisers are not willing to spend the three gazillion dollars it takes to advertise on AOL. There might come a day when something happens, AOL's stock takes a beating, and they find themselves without cash. There might come a day when all of the people not using AOL anymore actually cancel their accounts, and Case realizes he just lost half his subscribers. And, my biggest wish, there might come a day when people realize that just using E-mail and chat can be done easier and cheaper, and that's when AOL will really hit the fan.

    Thank you.

  • I was moderately surprised at all the complimentary comments about AOL in this thread, I was expecting more "AOHELL MUST DIEEEEE!!!!!!!" 12 year olds.

    There are a few points of this article that I'd like to address.
    AOL controls a vast number of online subscribers. More than any other online service. However, this is a far cry from what CNet describes as an "empire of near-Microsoftian proportions". Why? Simple, AOL does not have a monopoly. AOL couldn't start unfairly charging $30 per month for online access without a large defaction of users. There is simply too much competition in the ISP market.

    "AOL isn't just an ISP..."
    true. Every venue AOL is now entering, however, there is fierce competition as well. AOLTV with WebTV, new AOL Internet modules with older i-Pliances, Cable access against @Home, much more.

    "The company has censored chat rooms and user home pages."
    Sure. It's their service. Don't they have a right to control what users can say and do on it? Especially with more lawsuits like the one recently in Germany, I can't blame them. AOL is a family oriented online service. If you don't like censorship, go to Yahoo! chat or sign up for a Geocities homepage or something.

    "AOL's proprietary browsers and email clients can keep users from venturing off the service."
    That'll change, as we know now, Netscape 6 now supports the proprietary AOL email service (although Netscape is indeed owned by AOL, this will be a desired feature by many AOL subscribers).
    And proprietary browser? Sure, they use Internet Explorer, which is a bit proprietary, but they don't stop you from using Netscape or other browsers.

    ALthough I can't possibly see why AOL would want to merger with Time Warner, this is hardly a monopoly. Time Warner/AOL does not 'control' the media in any way. CNN is a trusted news source, I highly doubt they'd report on anything with a bias. (doesn't matter to me, I've already defacted to Fox News.)

    And as for making their software available only on certain platforms... so?
    AOL's software is targetted at beginners. AOL realized that there is no market for a simplicity ISP for Linux.

    Looking ahead, I just can't forsee AOL abusing their subscriber base.
  • I've seen your arguement before. AOL fosters newbies who will eventually see the pure shit they are using and eventually 'grow up' to a 'real' ISP. I agree with it, but at the same time I think you're wrong. Think about the average AOL user, ie: your mom, your grandparents, someone who's been enticed by the latest TV commercial. These are the people who use the computer only for word processing or for faxing. They don't need much else. They take this same "If it's got what I need, I'm happy" stance towards internet access. If AOL can give them stock quotes, e-mail, weather, shopping, IM's... why should they bother growing up?. This is the stance of the Common Everday Non-Techy Person, which is AOL's prime market. So they see a couple ads? They don't see a bunch of weird techy configuration stuff (my parents description of window's dial-up networking configs :P), they only see what they need and some minor hindrances. My point is, more technical users (ie: those interested in computers, coders, gamers, etc.) will grow up to ISP's. However, this is a small fraction of AOL's user base, and that is why we will continue to have headaches like I've seen described here. The AOL'ization of America was inevitable. If it wasn't AOL who came to fill the huge market gap that ISP's frankly can't deal with (while satisfying techies like us), someone else would. It's called business. All you elitist people out there are just going to have to realize that getting everyone online means getting everyone online, idiots and ignorants included. I'm reminded of a Dennis Miller quote: "Think of the average person in America. Now realize that 50% of America is dumber than that." It's a pain, but we will have to deal.
  • by Spiff28 ( 147865 ) on Thursday April 20, 2000 @11:06AM (#1120760)

    I've seen your arguement before. AOL fosters newbies who will eventually see the pure shit they are using and eventually 'grow up' to a 'real' ISP. I agree with it, but at the same time I think you're wrong.

    Think about the average AOL user, ie: your mom, your grandparents, someone who's been enticed by the latest TV commercial. These are the people who use the computer only for word processing or for faxing. They don't need much else. They take this same "If it's got what I need, I'm happy" stance towards internet access. If AOL can give them stock quotes, e-mail, weather, shopping, IM's... why should they bother growing up?

    This is the stance of the Common Everday Non-Techy Person, which is AOL's prime market. So they see a couple ads? They don't see a bunch of weird techy configuration stuff (my parents description of window's dial-up networking configs :P), they only see what they need and some minor hindrances.

    My point is, more technical users (ie: those interested in computers, coders, gamers, etc.) will grow up to ISP's. However, this is a small fraction of AOL's user base, and that is why we will continue to have headaches like I've seen described here.

    The AOL'ization of America was inevitable. If it wasn't AOL who came to fill the huge market gap that ISP's frankly can't deal with (while satisfying techies like us), someone else would. It's called business. All you elitist people out there are just going to have to realize that getting everyone online means getting everyone online, idiots and ignorants included. I'm reminded of a Dennis Miller quote: "Think of the average person in America. Now realize that 50% of America is dumber than that."

    It's a pain, but we will have to deal

  • "But they really are doing the world a favor by getting everyone hooked up."

    You mean they're doing /online business/ a favor by getting people hooked up. Who else is benefitting? Not I. (Unless of course more people are forcing higher bandwidth...but I think it is the clueful people, not the clueless people, which are really pushing that).
  • by goliard ( 46585 ) on Thursday April 20, 2000 @11:16AM (#1120763)

    Why should users "grow up"?

    If they are getting something which seems to them to be a good deal -- largely because they aren't allowed to know there are better deals -- why would they strike out from the warm, cozy nest of AOL?

    Furthermore, I think you vastly underestimate the number of people who want their world to be orderly and safe and tidy -- at any cost. The attitudes of /. (e.g. "He who would trade liberty for safety deserves neither") are NOT those of the rest of the world.

    The so called "AOLization of America" is actually the "small-towning of America". It is an America where there is no privacy (everyone's in everyone else's business) and behavior is controlled by moral censure and there can be no dissent.

    I feel confident that whoever came up with the unfortunately accurate expression "Global Village" never had the misfortune of living in an actual village.

    Most people are never going leave AOL. Most people will never take the red pill. They like the safe blandness of AOL just as it is. These are people who live in suburbs, after all.
    ----------------------------------------------

  • by akadonrico ( 177013 ) on Thursday April 20, 2000 @11:19AM (#1120765)
    I would even go so far as to say that there's a number of productive /.ers (myself not included) who got started with AOL. Aye. I had AOHell for quite awhile back in '92-'94, back in the day of BBSes. I switched for two reasons: First, I grew up (that was when I was in h.s.), got smarter, and realized that AOL severely limited my choices as well as my liberties in using not just the web but the Internet. Second, and most importantly, I realized I was being abused as a client. There is no greater insult, in my opinion, than being abused as a PAYING CLIENT. It's for the same reason that I really hate MS. Another reason to not get too scared just yet: ADSL. Remember gang, there is competition out there in the form of a competing technology. I advised my parents to go for ADSL in their hometown because it was cheaper. AOL will always have the local TelCo's to compete with. The one thing that does scare me is AOL's potential to force Time-Warner subscribers who don't have any choice in cable providers (such as my parents) to also get AOL's cablemodem/webTV service or get no service at all. Sounds very familiar to the browswer/OS packaging that has caused everyone's favorite ongoing antitrust trial to me... and keep in mind AOL has a longer history of client abuse than MS did. ciao.
  • Death-of-the-Internet-predicted-Film (MPEGS?) -at-11 story.

    I mean come on AOL has their own little playground. People either like it and stay there or wise up and go out into the real world. No harm in that.

    And their business prospects are so bad they went out and by the proverbial dinosaur of the media world (TW) to try to make things better for them? And people are worried about this wonderful blend of incompetence and idocy? I'm not.
  • by El Volio ( 40489 ) on Thursday April 20, 2000 @09:30AM (#1120771) Homepage
    Yes, AOL (hate to say it!) leads a lot of newbies on to the Net, who make life difficult for us all. Remember the infamous "Please send me pics of Sheryl Crow naked. Thank you" messages plastered all over USENET in summer '95? And there's countless other examples.

    At the same time, users can 'grow up'. They can outgrow AOL and eventually move to a real ISP. So that hand-holding can be useful, just like for a child, many of whom are quite annoying at first, then get much more pleasant. (Then there's adolescence -- script kiddies? :)

    So all in all, I would say that in hindsight, AOL has actually been good for the Net by bringing on lots of users who eventually became good Netizens. (I can't believe I just wrote that.) I would even go so far as to say that there's a number of productive /.ers (myself not included) who got started with AOL. Then there's the trolls, so two sides to every piece of bread...

    The question remains, what will happen now that they dominate content? I suggest that just maybe, they'll generate content to bring people online and interest them in the rest of the Net, and these users will eventually move on to better, more lively stuff. Even if they control 20% of Web content (a HUGE proportion), that means that there's four times as much stuff out there that they don't control. If you build it, they will come.

    It'll be annoying, but it'll be good in the long run.

  • " AOL's widely available, easy-to-use Internet service"

    Well, it's not 'available' the same way a server/phone trunk is marked in availability - can I connect 99.95% of the time. No. It is not high availability... of course, they say widely, and it is somewhat true - anywhere you have a phone line, you can get to AOL...

    Internet service - they never really claimed to be, until recently. Their profits are from the non-internet content on their site. If you just dial into AOL as an ISP, then Netscrape your way way out of it (with the ugly stuff minimized), you are wasting time and money (but I got 500 free hours!?)...

    They are getting to be a huge deal, and, like any other hopeful enterprise, take advantage of the people who are less informed, weaker minded, and those who just don't care...

    I was happy when AOL first came out - it was the first cheap access to any outside content that I could get (the bills were high from the BBS calls)... Of course, then you had to add your own winsock, and do some other things, but at least it didn't feed you 'art' all day until you puked... and the chat rooms were almost real... not nearly as many gender-benders...

    Installing AOL *still* screws up just about any other connections you might have. You have a VPN client. Install AOL and watch it fizzle. Another dial-up... good luck. Of course, if you have a 24/7 net connection, you don't dial-up and just connect to AOL via TCP/IP... though I heard they were getting rid of that / charging extra for it...

    I don't have Time WAOLner Cable in my area, so that doesn't bother me too much... (I've ranted long enough anyway).
  • ...it's business. Capitalism. We villify these megacorporations and laud smaller companies like Red Hat. But the only way for a small company to become a big one is by doing exactly the sort of stuff that AOL and Microsoft do--cater to the idiots of the world, every blessed one of them. It's the same in every industry. Did anyone else raise an eyebrow a few years back when Sun and Oracle et al. formed a group called "Anyone But Microsoft"? Does anyone think a world ruled by Larry Ellison would be better than one ruled by Bill Gates? It's important to recognize that the same ideal is present at ALL levels of business: make money, lots of it. Anyone who follows this ideal is as much of a bastard as Gates. Hell, Bill got his start by being one of the very first to claim that he could actually own the software he (or people in his company) wrote, back in the days of Apple I's. He wasn't a billionaire then. It's not an issue of magnitude. It's an issue of purpose.
  • by Cid Highwind ( 9258 ) on Thursday April 20, 2000 @11:30AM (#1120781) Homepage
    Unless of course more people are forcing higher bandwidth...but I think it is the clueful people, not the clueless people, which are really pushing that

    Not true! Who is more impressed by graphics-heavy web sites, and who is just as happy reading text with minimal formatting? Who sends email attachments as uncompressed .bmp because he can't figure out WinZip, and who religiously gzips every outgoing file? Who watches streaming video? Who listens to steaming audio? Who actually likes shocked and/or flashed websites?

    It's the AOLers driving bandwidth consumption, and therefore driving bandwidth expansion. The users who are considered "clueful" have mostly been online since the days of the 2400 baud dialup, and understand how to minimize bandwidth usage.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Even before there was an AOL, Americal was AOL-ized.
  • by TheTomcat ( 53158 ) on Thursday April 20, 2000 @09:34AM (#1120796) Homepage
    I don't see AOL having very much power. The only effect AOL has in my house is as coasters...

    The media has WAY too much power. The Time-Warner merger with AOL gives them MORE power.

    Imagine what it would be like if the media was controlled by a single organization. Ever read 1984? If not, do it. It's a really good read.

    Slashdot-terminal has a quote in his sig. "He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past."

    For those of you who haven't read the book, that quote refers to Winston Smith's job. His job was to 'update' old newspapers. If a paper made a 'mistake' in one of their articles. For instance, last quarter, the ministry of plenty could've said "There will be a surplus of goods next quarter. Everyone will get their boots and coats!" Which made the people happy, when actually the next quarter was a poor quarter. Nobody got their boots and coats. Smith's job was to update the article to show that the ministry 'didn't actually say' what it reported they said. When people tried to look up the article, they would realize that the ministry of truth actually did not say ANYTHING about boots and coats.

    Anyway, my point is that the media is not trustworthy, and the general public are sheep. Look at Orson Welles' War of the Worlds broadcast. People killed themselves because they thought aliens were coming. (If you don't know anything about the WOTW broadcast, read up on it.. it's pretty interesting).

    We need to start thinking on our own, and stop letting the little glass-fronted boxes in our livingroom and computerroom do it for us.

    (side note: Rob, slashdot's eating HTML on the preview.)
  • This discuasion just came up in my Philosophy class, and I'm more convinced than ever that one company owning so much of the net is a Bad Thing. But the other scary thing I learned was that AOL now owns part of the very backbone of the net, through an acquisition. The prospect of AOL limiting access and content over the net itself doesn't put a smile on my face.
  • I don't think the comparision between the MS and AOL monopolies is particularly relevent.

    MS controls what you use to view content (IE vs NS)

    AOL controls what you view (and, incidently, what you use).

    When it comes down to it, what appears in the big empty space in window is much more important than who's bit of code was used to render it.

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