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AOL 6.0 Client: We'll Be Your Home Page, Thanks 211

Masem writes: "According to this story at CNet, the latest version of AOL 6.0's Web browser does not allow the user to set a home page, nor click on a button to go to the home page. Instead, the user is forced to start up through AOL's start page. AOL claims this was an aesthetic move prompted by user input, but many are crying foul in light of the proposed TW/AOL merger; such a move gives AOL too much of an edge on content control. At least they could have left such a change in an advanced dialog box for experienced users ..."
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AOL 6.0 Client: We'll Be Your Home Page, Thanks

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  • A karma-whore is a troll.

    Latin name: trollus hordii
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Well, there are three (or maybe four) reason why folks use AOL.

    1) AOL is just about the only ISP they can get without incurring a hideous long-distance charge. Remember, it's not only city-dwellers who want to get connected.

    2) AOL is most likely the very first ISP to which they're introduced, via the ubiquitous diskettes and CDs they've been mailed for a decade now (I've quite a nice collection of AOL CDs, going ack to version 4.0. I use them as coasters!).

    3) AOL is easy to use. The set up is fairly painless and once the user is in, he or she is in an easy to navigate self-contained community which gives them the kind of content they want (shopping, stocks, chat, some research tools, etc)with litte to no hassles (though the disconect problems were a real pain, but they seem to have straightened it out mostly). It appeals greatly to the adult computer novice who is willing to spend more money on an easy, safe community like AOL is.

    Now, I'm not saying that it's a perfect place. But my parents, who were as computer illiterate as anyone you've ever met, have been using AOL for almost two years now and their computer knowledge and excitement about new technologies has gone up along with it. That has to count in AOL's favor.


  • by Anonymous Coward
    I remember dumping my timeshare account and getting my first ISP service, soon after Al Gore created the (commercially accessible) Internet.

    First I had to make a direct modem connection using ZTerm (a Mac Comm program). How did I get ZTerm? A year before I had to check a really bad comm program out from the library and use it to download ZTerm from a local BBS.

    Then I was able to download (using ZModem) some unoffical PPP driver developed by some university, a illegal copy of MacTCP, NCSATermnial, and some instructions.

    After I got everything installed and configured, I was able to dial-up the PPP number, and telnet into a shell. From there I could FTP a Mac FTP program to my shell space and then disconnect, directly dial to the shell machine, and ZModem it down to my Mac.

    Fortunately I already had DeBinHex and MacBinaryII and CompactPro and StuffitExpander from the BBS days.

    Once I had the FTP program up and running, I was finally able to get to and download their crappy Mac beta version.

    In retrospect, I can understand how AOL got such a huge foothold back in the old days.
  • by MassacrE ( 763 )
    If AOL was a small company, I'd look at this and laugh. But with the Time/Warner deal heading up soon, it is very possible that all of Time/Warner's present and future subscribers will be AOL users.

    They are forcing content on a lot of users, who will soon probably not have a real alternative to opt-out.
  • Well, of course, most /.-ers aren't using AOL (I know I'm not), so it doesn't really affect most of us. Microsoft products, however, do affect some of us more directly, as some of us do have to deal with/support/etc. assorted Microsoft stuff. That's why most of us don't care. I know that I for one don't care that much - why should I? I don't have to deal with AOL. (Thank goodness...)
  • I feel that these companies setting a default home page to their company is wrong all together. This in particular is REALLY wrong because you can't change it. The majority of people at the places I go to support computers use the default page of whatever they have without even thinking about it. People who use Netscape use Netcenter. People who use IE go to by default. And people that use AOL go to aol by default. a great majority of them will never change that. I feel the webpage should be blank by default and then be very easy to set any page you are on as your home page. It is unfair to be any other way. Just my opinion.
  • Which is why I said make an easy way to set your current page to the default.. but this made me think of something else. Why not when you first launch the browser it would prompt you to set your default home page to one of several portal sites that are just as good or better than msn, netcenter or aol. It would say choose one of these or enter your own here in this box. I think that would be the most fair way.
  • In Netscape you can actually set the browser to start with a blank page, yet have the "Home" button go to a URL. That way you don't need to see that page render every single time you open the browser, but you can get to it quick if you want to. I've actually got my home page set to a local HTML file with mini-forms for things like Google,, IMDB's search, etc...
  • Huh? What's your point? I know about "about:blank". I was just saying that with Netscape you don't have to set your home page to about:blank, you can actually select "Browser starts with: Blank page", and then the "Home" button can still take you somewhere useful and non-blank.
  • by jjr ( 6873 )
    And so does alot of people. Personally I set to a blank page then I decide to go where I want to go from there. But is just me.
  • I tried MSN Explorer and as far as I can tell their is no way to set your home page in it either. Granted I can always just use regular explorer as MSN Explorer is just a different interface for the web with MSN Messenger and media player integrated into it. I just wanted to try it out. I think it's good for inexperienced web users. It makes it pretty without them having to use AOL. But then of course they are exposed mostly to Microsoft content which is considered the bane of evil around these parts of the web. *shrug*
  • I lose count of the number of times I have to go and reset user preferences on the internal web at work when an installation of MS Internet Exploder that the user has somehow acquired and installed resets options like 'Always check for Internet explorer updates', and stops the user seeing our internal home page when they start up.

    Yes, on our internal net, do not adjust your computer, we are in control of what you see and do during the next half hour!

    Presumably, this is hard coded into the software or a registry setting somewhere then? Perhaps it can be overwritten? Word Macro anyone?
  • It's been awhile since I was in Reston/Herdon at that time of night, but the last few times I was there, the traffic was fairly heavy late at night. Not rush hour levels, but heavier than you'd expect at 11PM.

    What complexes and where are they located? There doesn't seem to be much of an apt crunch in Loudoun...yet. The only problem is price. It won't be long before you can buy a townhome for the monthly price of a one or two bedroom apt lease (the two bedroom lease is already there).

  • Not to nitpick, but Nowheresville, Va? Last I heard, AOL was headquartered in Northern Virginia, while not Silicon Valley, doesn't exactly qualify as Nowheresville. Even in 1998 whent he book was written, the area was growing like crazy. For those of you not familiar with NoVa, it's the area in Virginia up around Washington DC. IIRC, AOL was/is in Herndon, only about 1/2 hour from DC. It's so crowded in NoVa, towns like Herdon and Reston have heavy traffic at 11PM (there's no real nightlife in those towns at that time so why the traffic?). Chris
  • How is an option in preferences to choose a different home page an aesthetic issue? If you were to remove the button that says "HOME", that's aesthetic. Preferences aren't made to be pretty, they're made to change a program. If AOL wants to make an aesthetic change, take off the HOME button. If they want to make blatant attempts to control the media, they could do what they're doing right now.
  • I think that people are missing the point here. True, users can choose another ISP if they so desire. The point here is that if a typical user likes AOL, they will stick with it. Even if AOL has the minor annoyance of only letting you use their home page, they'll keep using it. Since these users will keep using AOL, and they keep visiting AOL's home page, AOL will have a monopoly over the media. This isn't AOL service bashing. This is a legitimate concern that AOL is trying to get too much power, and they're not even being honest about it.
  • I agree. Part of the problem is that AOL "removed" this feature. If locking homepages was there all along, no one would complain. Actually, I'm rather surprised that AOL ever let people *change* their homepage. That's a very valuable piece of commodity - 25 million users logging on once a day, think of the ad revenue.

  • Telling AOL users "if you don't like it, quit the service" is like some advanced utopian alien civilization saying, "if you don't like that hell-hole of a planet [earth], come to our planet 100 light years away." a) we dont' know how the hell we can do that and more importantly b) We dont' know we live in a hell-hole, because earth is the only planet we have experience with.

    I'm not sure why the moderators scored you redundant, but I thought your comment was nice.

    Not that my opinion means much. :)

  • As user choice in controlling screen real-estate diminishes, the difference between ISPs that cost (in $) and free ones (no $) continues to blur. I wonder how different AOL/MSN will be from NetZero/Bluelight (wrt their control of user screens) in 2 years time. How will this market shakeup...?

    Anyway, AOLusers can always Upgrade(Tm) to getting their internet curtesy of KMart [] for free!
  • How is the above post a troll? It's totally accurate and concise. Me thinks we have a loopy moderator on the loose.
  • We are the Borg. Resistence is futile. Lower your shields and prepare to be assimilated....

    That's something that's always bothered me. We all know that the Borg's could board a ship with shields up (happened a lot in ST:First encounter). Why the hell are they even bothering to ask over commlink ??

    Ok. I know this is O/T. Let me fix this :

    We all know that AOL could restrict content in there own proprietary client. So why the hell are they even bothering to tell people lies like "It's aesthetic" ??

  • Open it up in ahex editor; I bet they didn't even encrypt it. change to or equiv. Keep trying each instance till it works. My experience with hex editing / dissasembling is limited, but I'll bet you need to keep the number of characters the same. Anyway, worht a try for those "advanced" users.
    You can't replace a string in compiled code with a string of a different length. You'll either clobber the bytes following the string (like the null terminator, oops) or you'll screw up the addressing and execute the wrong instructions.

    It's better to always practice "safe hex!" Heh.


  • He added that members also wanted one-click access...

    Does this mean we will see an AOL vrs. fight comming soon? ;)

  • Geez.. you spent a little longer than most trolls w/that respnose.

    Almost clever.

  • Mrs. Clear Plastic meet Deda []
  • At least AOL has the good graces not to display additional ads while you're surfing the web, on top of the banner ads already in web pages. Bluelight and Netzero, the only two of the four you mentioned that will be around in three months (seriously, click on your own Freewwweb link) serve up ads like crazy. Netzero's ad bar even blinks if you don't click on ads, and eventually terminates your connection.

    Good ol' AOL. At least they don't put banners on their web browser. As for their e-mail client, chat rooms, instant messenger, welcome screen, log-off screen, and "channels," that's another story. :)
  • Besides, do these "free" ISPs you listed even work with OS's besides Windows?

    Actually, one of the reasons why FreeInet and FreeWWWeb went bankrupt was because they did work with OS's other than Windows. Just put your login information into any PPP dialer, and you're on-line ad-free. You could even bypass the ads by using regular old Windows Dial-Up Networking. How about that?
  • Napster doesn't allow me to change the page that is loaded either. That truly sucks. I feel so violated. *yawn*

    Come on people!! It's a service.. You buy a package: news, chat, email, web, the AOL community. When you start up the client for the package (which is technically a web browser), it will show you what is currently going on.. the news, your friends who are logged on, your new email etc. It's a service! Most AOL users will see it as a positive thing. Hell, they probably don't even realize it's a "homepage" - they just see it as a screen that is shown after the AOL client starts up.

    If you don't want these services shoved down your throat, use another "ISP" (I don't personally think AOL *IS* an ISP but rather some kind of new type of digital services company). I have "about:blank" as my homepage and I prefer not to have to use any one particular web browser. People are different - that's why there are more than just one ISP and they all have clients.

  • perl -pi -e 's/' AOL.exe

    You may have to run it on other files too. who knows...
  • Earthlink's been doing this to me sinceI've had their service. When a tech came out to change my cable modem, he even went into my internet prefs to make my homepage or or something. (He then checked that step off on his checklist; I promptly changed it back to about:blank, but hey if it makes them happy...) "AOL's web browser" sucks. No one who knows how to use Netscape or IE uses it. It doesn't play nicely with firewalls all the time, it doesn't render as well or as fast as IE, it's basically IE's html view control emebedded in an AOL MDI client. This really isn't that big a deal people...
  • Ministry of Software -> Minisoft -> Microsoft?
  • ... and regedit is your friend.

  • What the hell is the fuss all about? I am on AOL 4.0 right now, and I sure as hell do not see a home page button. There is a menu item called Go to the web, which has always gone to aol's web site, and you still have to go through a few menus to get there.

    If you want a home page, just add it to your favorite places. It takes the same ammount of clicks to open the favorite places menu as it does to "go to the web".

    What the hell is the big deal here? CNET is well known in my book for poor and misleading articles. Especially when it comes to AOL.

    The "homepage" in my browser is blank.

  • It depends; if it changed IE so that you can't set a new start page, then no that isn't fair. If its only in the aol software, then ya, there's no reason to care. Anyone know if it fucks up IE, or just its software?
  • I like to set mine to blank. Its much faster then loading a page, esp. if i'm on a modem. And usually i don't have the same task when i start browsing. I think this move by aol sucks, it just makes things slower. Browswers don't seem to want to stop loading page sometimes..
  • That's what you get when you use propietary software and services like that, you become limited in what you can do.

  • It seems to me that company's are tightening their grip on the advertising income. More and more I'm being forced to go through some advertising to reach the information I want because of the demise of really free information on the internet. AOL seems to be making it extremely hard for their customers to reach the information they want without add's (a portal usually is a big ad page).
  • When you do a web page search your results are served by and the page says "Yahoo!(R) powered by Google" or something like that...
    example search on yahoo []

    But yes... pure Google (.com) is still preferrable imho...

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Here are Schuler's Top Ten Signs You're Spending Too Much Time on AOL:

    10. You've named your three kids A, O and L.
    9. Your buddy list is up to 350,000.
    8. You've developed an enormous crush on that "You've Got Mail" guy.
    7. You've wasted two-and-a-half years of your life just waiting for new art to be installed.
    6. Let's just say you've gotten incredibly good at typing with one hand.
    5. You met, married and divorced your wife without ever having laid eyes on her.
    4. Teri Hatcher comes to your house and tells you to stop downloading her damn photo.
    3. You missed your son's graduation because bowling legend Earl Anthony was hosting a live chat.
    2. You actually read those "Community Updates" from Steve Case.
    And the No. 1 reason you know you've been spending too much time on AOL: You had your name legally changed from Bob to Bob12756.

  • Yeah, experienced users. I hadn't used AOL in a decade until I moved to France. AOL is currently the only dial-up ISP in France that provides unlimited usage at a flat rate and pays the per-minute local telco fees, fees that do not exist in the US. There are numerous ISP's that claim to be "free" but they're free as in "not free" because what they give you is a small number of hours connect time per month, then gouge you for connect time after that, and force you to pay local telco per-minute fees at across the board. My usage, roughly 60 hours a month, is too great to bear that financial burden. So AOL it is: 199F (about US$25) a month all you can eat.
  • Well considering that you don't HAVE to use the AOL browser, what does it matter? You can always install Netscape/IE/Mozilla/Opera etc...

    Most AOL users figure out that there is more outside that window.


  • > It allows you to put the right angle on the quotes, and it's the preferred way of using quotes in high-quality typesetting
    > environments (TeX, for instance).

    Hmm. I picked it up as a minor idiosyncracy when I first started reading Usenet back in 1992. (``Everybody else was doing it -- & it looks cool.") Didn't know about the other part, though.

  • > AOL may not be the choice for power users, but they are most certainly not going downhill. They are, by a huge margin, the #1
    > consumer ISP.

    I was referring to the experience an end-user has. AOL tries to represent itself as a friendly, small-town sort of place, but is more & more an empty suburban sprawl around a strip mall whose principal tenants are strip clubs, porno shops, & telemarketer call centers.

    Steve Case once promised that an AOL customer would never see an ad on AOL -- & that the most important thing about AOL was the community. But without warning or even a preliminary survery, AOL changed all of that. (Case has this habit of making his decisions without warning.) Now AOL customers get bombarded with all sorts of ads, & their emphasis (thanks to Bob Pittman the ex-MTV guy) is now on a watered-down version of television. (That is, ``shut up & watch.")

    As for users attitudes, from what I've seen it tends to be one of these four types:

    1) doesn't care
    2) doesn't know any better
    3) doesn't like it, thinks it's k-rad kewl to complain about AOL
    4) doesn't like it, is leaving/has left

    If this is the ``consumer Internet experience," I'm glad I'm not part of it.

  • > So could anyone tell me why use it in the first place?

    Same reason you're using Rogers@home: they don't have any choice -- AOL is the sole ISP in their local area. Or the alternative is even more flakey. (``We're using the best technology out there, folks! NT 4.0 on Pentium 133's. No, we don't believe in installing any Service Packs -- gawd only know what's innem. Firewalls? Why NT is secure, right out of the box! Oh, like to stay & talk some more, but I gotta go back to the office & reboot the server again.")

    And I know a few ``experienced" AOL users. Their entire contact with AOL is limited to:

    log on
    get email (queued)
    send email (queued)
    log off

    And the only way they will use version 6.0 of the AOL software is if AOL writes a server-based program to disable all earlier versions (some of them are still using version 2.0 IIRC), & force an upgrade. And AOL will continue its slide into levels of incompetence that no one thought possible.

  • It's not the users that should complain, but all the web sites with the "click here to make this your homepage" button -- AOL is effectively using monopoly-like powers to push out other services that would like to provide starting point services. As you say, the users can just use a different browser (but probably won't).
  • There's an easy fix for this, just add to your /etc/hosts file as then you'll get your own local home page instead of their crap...

    Nyuk Nyuk.

  • Well, you go tmy little joke, congrats!
  • seems to me users that care about such things probably don't subscribe to aol

  • AOL's main campus is located in Dulles. (Look for Aol Way on your favorite map site) That's far from Nowheresville. AOL, UUNet, and PSINet are all headquartered there. According to Wired, more than 50% of all Internet traffic flows through at least one of their systems. Network Solutions is headquarted there. So is MCI Worldcom. There's certainly a housing crunch - i looked at about 40 different apartment complexes, and only about six or seven had a known vacancy coming up, and the earliest was more than a month away - in an apartment that had yet to be built. But i don't know what you're talking about with traffic at 11 PM. That's ridiculous. The only time i see traffic is at lunch.
  • This is like complaining that Greyhound buses don't have door to door, personal service. Do you really sign up with AOL hoping to tightly control your content? As I see it, it's one of the ISP's with a goal of "push" and content control.

    It seems like people who sign up with AOL either don't know better (and maybe they like the content control) or know that AOL likes to take over your computer. If you want control over your interface, other ISP's offer much better packages.

    As for me, I delete the AOL icons as fast as I can after a Windoze reinstall. Cable all the way, baby.
  • Not that it is that hard to make one myself, but I am curious on what you guys have come up with as a useful homepage. Some have talked of forms for search engines and perhaps frames to commonly used sites...

    So would you guys mind throwing your home pages up onto a website somewhere for us to 'borrow' :-) ? After we insert our own links of course :-)

    I hope someday we have ActiveDesktop-like deal for GNU/Linux. That would be fun to play with...
  • besides why are you paying for dial-up access anyways?
    Everyone who has dial-up access pays for it. Say it with me now: advertising-supported is not free.

    You buy the advertised products, and the price is marked up so that part of what you pay goes to the marketing divisions of various companies, who pay NetZero et. al. to infect your mind with the "buy our stuff" meme.

    In addition to the price markups you pay, there's also the bandwidth and mindspace pollution caused by ads. TANSTAAFL.

  • > aesthetic
    1: of, relating to, or dealing with aesthetics or the beautiful
    2 : appreciative of, responsive to, or zealous about the beautiful; also : responsive to or appreciative of what is pleasurable to the senses

    > How in the heck is this an aesthetic move for AOL?

    Broader question: Given that definition, how in the heck is the word "aesthetic" in any way, shape, or form related to anything AOL throws at its users?

    My conspiracy theory: Bill wants to put the final nail in Netscape/Mozilla coffin, and associating Netscape with AOL 6.0's b0rken browser is that nail. His mole at AOL must be highly-paid.

  • People still actually use the 'Home page' feature?

    Yes, of course. I made a bookmark page [] on my site that I set as the home page on any browser I'm going to be using regularly (school, work, home, etc). It's very useful to not have to import that stuff over & over again (Google, Slashdot, Reuters, etc). The home page isn't just where you start (that's not even particularly useful on IE, it bugs me that the address bar isn't cleared), it's a central point you can keep coming back to. I'd hate to have some ISP override that on me.

    I've spent years trying to get my family to stop using AOL, to no avail -- they're hooked. They even signed up for a Mediaone cable modem, & still they won't stop using the AOL accounts. It's not even that they're all that naive at this point -- it's that AOL works for them, they can do what they want to do, and they aren't impressed by the alternatives. The fact that I disagree doesn't change the fact that they (& millions of others) have a point & know what they're doing. They aren't necessarily naive AOLamers, and this move isn't fair to them...

  • It was an agreement they signed with MS to get AOL shipped on Windows CDs.
  • for only $99 bucks
  • Holy cow. Did I manage to introduce the word "borken" into the geek vernacular, or did that come from somewhere else?
    Obfuscated e-mail addresses won't stop sadistic 12-year-old ACs.
  • This is what my homepage is.. It comes in VERY handy.. I'm actually trying to decide between this or google as my homepage.

  • With respect to the active desktop, KDE has that.
  • Don't remove the "Home" button ... to have quick access to a white blank page could be very handy in certain situations ... ;)

    Samba Information HQ
  • Come on folks, there are literally hundreds of ISPs to choose from. AOL, of which I am not a member, has always attempted to control the front end. In doing so, the do control content, however it also makes it easier for them to provide customer service.

    Could they do it like most others? Certainly, however they are a brand, and like most brands they want to differentiate themselves. AOL's business model is such that they want people to shop/read/sleep/etc. within the confines of their environment.

    I liken this to a hotel. If I do not like the way the beds are or the choice of activities, I do not stay their. If enough people stop staying, the hotel changes or dies. Such is life in business.
  • Just be thankful they broke up Microsoft. *snicker*
  • I imagine the stop button does not work, so the user is forced to download whatever AOL wants to push. This would blow in a major way if AOL could not feed it fast enough. Think of walking off for 10 minutes or so to wait it out, then comming back to find that you had been disconnected for inactivity! Ahhhhh!

    I also have to worry about them changing the compatibility of their service with other browsers. Older software used to open up a socket that any browser would use, and I used Netscape and never theirs.

    It's been about a year since I used AOL, and this gives me pause to think about it. I got cable modem, but still pay AOL $10 a month just in case the cable fails and also because it has been such a stable address. Yep, in the time I'd had AOL, I'd had six physical addresses. I phased out that email address in favor of a pop account on campus over about a year before cable, so mail checks have gotten less and less frequent (too much spam too little mail). The last time I tried to use AOL's service it hung up. I was thinking of putting a newer client on that awful windoze box, but this has me reconsidering. It may be time to shoot that $10/month insurance policy in the head.

  • Their service blows alright, but it only cost $10/month to keep it around if you have a cable modem. It's not a bad security blanket. Sure it blows, but the phone line might be there if the cable breaks.

    By the way, I'd never use this for a family account. AOL mailboxes fill up with the most disgusting porn spam! I don't care what kind of "filter" they would use to not sell my address to porn merchants, when I have kids old enough to use a computer, AOL is history.

  • There're also lots of teenagers whose parents won't let me get a real ISP, but really, really want one. Badly. Gee, I'd hate to be them.

    Ha-ha-ha. This is called a Freudian slip. (My bold).
  • In some small towns, America Online is the only ISP with a local modem.

    You wrote:
    Experienced users don't use AOL. At least, not for long. They get fed up with crap like this and get a real ISP.

    And they would have to make a long-distance call at 10 cents per minute just to get Internet access.

  • Geeze is it really that hard to think that MAYBE you might be able to get around this by NOT using the AOL web browser?

    besides why are you paying for dial-up access anyways?

    Bluelight []
    NetZero []
    FreeInet []
    FreeWWWeb []

  • The major television networks, in light of the latest bad news regarding declining viewership, have announced that beginning in the Second Quarter of 2001 they will be offering FREE 51-inch HDTV sets to their loyal viewers.

    Jack Mehoff, president of the Broadcast Television Association, says "The just-completed World Series had the worst ratings ever. Since FOX has the rights to the World Series for the next umpteen years, they have naturally signed on for this promotion."

    (Ratings for last Spring's NCAA Basketball Tournament, the NBA Finals, the Sydney Olympics and even the NFL have been dropping as well for several years now. -- ed.)

    Mehoff explained further that "NBC needs to ensure the audience base for ER does not erode any further. ABC will offer a customized unit that features the synthesized voice of Regis Philbin and CBS knows its core demographic is too old to notice any change." He continues, "We feel the average American television viewer will gladly trade their choice of channels for the aesthetic HDTV experience. And there won't be any complicated 'clicker' to futz around with. We feel this is adding real value to our product. By giving consumers fewer things to worry about, such as that pesky channel-surfing thing, we hope to increase brand loyalty."

    A spokesperson for the FCC indicated that the plan would probably not be in violation of the "No Channel Surfing" legislation now pending before Congress. The bill would make changing the channel on your television set more than twice every 5 minutes illegal. The spokesman added that "we feel the free HDTV initiative will help educate consumers as to what the new law says regarding this problem."
  • AOL has done a great job of sabotaging the AOL/Time-Warner merger. Do you think you could do better?

    They shot themself in the foot when they offered ISPs cable access at 75% of fee charged and 25% of advertising revenue generated. Now it appears they are shooting themself in the other foot by requiring AOL to be the only HomePage. Plus they are taking aim at their kneecaps by pissing-off(and pissing-on) their partners.

    I don't think the SEC, FTC, and FCC will have any trouble in trashing the merger. If it does get approved there will most likely be major changes in disvestment, and provisions for regulating how it conducts its business.

  • Lame is thinking that everyone has to be open and completely fair. Last time I saw, no one has been forced to put an AOL CD into their PC or Mac and load up the software to use the internet. There are far many more ISPs out there. MSN, as much as people hate MS anymore, is still competition. Juno, Mindspring, many many many more.

    So what that AOL wants to make itself its own homepage and not let you change it? You can always change your ISP.

    Dragon Magic []
  • This is the problem of a company (not only AOL) that provides conectivity and contents. This has to be goverment controlled or at least avoided my _smart_ users.

    Content companies DO NOT and NEVER WILL want you to access other content pages. Internet is basically free and wide access to content. An ISP has to enable users to access that content. If your ISP provides content too, you will be fooled, sooner or later.

    The problem with AOL users is that they think that this the only way to obtain valuable content.

  • Replacing a string in a binary with a string of a different length?

    This will break it. Depending how the replace works, it will either:

    1. Increase the length of the file, throwing off any and all offsets and addresses either side of the modified string(s) (I suspect this is what will happen)
    2. or it will overwrite code/data at the end of the string. e.g. the null terminator... that could be one very long string filled with garbage you'd have afterwards, not to mention broken instructions.
  • by Fervent ( 178271 )
    It's their browser for their service. They're free to do that.

    Right now I have a [wonderful machine besides but] Dell laptop I bought that defaults to Dell's website in IE. It can be changed, which I have already done to Yahoo, but if I click "Use Default" it zooms over to Must be some kind of registry key.

  • You can't just tell expect AOL users to recognize that AOL is controlling where they are visiting.

    Of course we (savvy computer users) will recognize that AOL blows, and ditch the service. But I'm sure the vast majority of AOL users don't even realize that there is an internet behind what they see on AOL, so of course they're not going to ditch the service for a 'real' Internet provider.

    Telling AOL users "if you don't like it, quit the service" is like some advanced utopian alien civilization saying, "if you don't like that hell-hole of a planet [earth], come to our planet 100 light years away." a) we dont' know how the hell we can do that and more importantly b) We dont' know we live in a hell-hole, because earth is the only planet we have experience with.
  • If you choose to use AOL's (lacking) service, you choose to deal with AOL's annoyances. Of course they're not going to admit "Hey, yeah, we're taking away your choice", and of course we know it's not intended as an aesthetic move. But does this really surprise anyone? It sucks, but it's not really immoral or unethical. If you don't like it, get another ISP.

    Besides, you can use normal socket apps with AOL. Just fire up your own copy of Netscape.

    All the more reason to avoid AOL, I guess.

  • aesthetic
    1: of, relating to, or dealing with aesthetics or the beautiful
    2 : appreciative of, responsive to, or zealous about the beautiful; also : responsive to or appreciative of what is pleasurable to the senses

    How in the heck is this an aesthetic move for AOL?

  • Open it up in ahex editor; I bet they didn't even encrypt it. change to or equiv. Keep trying each instance till it works. My experience with hex editing / dissasembling is limited, but I'll bet you need to keep the number of characters the same. Anyway, worht a try for those "advanced" users.
  • Gotta admit that when you're done putting all those AOL cds through the microwave, *those* are pretty aesthetic to the eyes.
  • In other news, AOL 6.0's web browser will be disabling the back button, the address bar, and all navigational capibilities that would allow users to access information from outside the AOL kingdom^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hdomain. According to Phil Smith, PR contact for AOL, these changes are made in response to client's inability to comprehend such a broad spectra of data.

    In response to the changes made in the new version, Dave Winkleman, AOL customer, commented of the new improved AOL, "My God! It's full of stars!"

  • Long ago I just made this local 'home.html' page with all the sites I'm interested in all organized and neat, along with some forms to various search engines and other tools. All in a nice compact space that loads up automatically. Zips me along to all the stuff I care about. :)

    It's useful, and hell, it even looks good in Lynx. :D
  • I'm sure you've violated a copyright at some point in your pathetic life. Time to do the time for your crime.

  • AOL may not be the choice for power users, but they are most certainly not going downhill. They are, by a huge margin, the #1 consumer ISP. Even the Devil of Redmond, with its monopo-bundling power, and loss leading (read: $400 bribe to subscribe) has not been able to crack this nut.

    I wouldn't be caught dead on AOL, but what they say is true: it is easy to use. AOL has totally nailed the consumer Internet experience, and most of its users are very happy with the service. If you have never met an AOL customer who didn't feel "seriously abused" then I have to question the identity of the group you sampled.
  • by Ektanoor ( 9949 ) on Saturday October 28, 2000 @02:28PM (#668315) Journal
    Well people, you may be right that AOL has the right to do its browsers with its content. Quite correct it's THEIR browser and they have the right to present the product to you the way they think you like it.

    However could you tell me one little thing? Do they separate this product from their other services? Do they specifically tell you that you may use it or IE, Netscape, Mozilla, Opera or even lynx? If they don't do this then they are subverting you. They are bounding you into the use of AOL only products. Worse, if they force the installation of their browser embedded into other services then they are clearly subverting your right for choice. Specially if you don't know too much about the market. It would be the same as if Ford possessed a oil company and made its cars sch a way that you could only fill in their gas stations ("Oh you can't use other gas station? Unfortunately we couldn't agree the common standards. And why to worry? We are everywhere").

    If this happens, it's a problem. Because you're facing a monopoly. However, if AOL informs that its products & services are separate entities. If it informs you about the existence of a market (no matter that it will surely say that its browser is better). IF it does not impose any critical restrictions or incompatibilities with other products. If you can get rid of AOL products without hampering other services the company gives. Well, if these IFs are observed then it's their right to do the browser the way they want. You have a right to choose. And, in this case, it's no matter to anyone if this company is fatter then King Kong. Otherwise, wait for DJ knocking their doors in a near future. When AOL will try to subvert the biggest US corporation... :)
  • by SecretAsianMan ( 45389 ) on Saturday October 28, 2000 @07:38PM (#668316) Homepage
    At least they could have left such a change in an advanced dialog box for experienced users

    You just haven't looked hard enough. I bet you could fix the problem by using the following steps (and I'm not quite sure about what everything is called, as I don't really have a Windows box with AOL on it nearby, or hell, even a windows box nearby):
    1. Open the "Start Menu"
    2. Choose "Settings"
    3. Choose "Control Panel"
    4. Choose "Add/Remove Software"
    5. Find AOL in the list of software
    6. Click the "Uninstall" button
    I think that will do it.
  • by MrP- ( 45616 ) <jessica AT supjessica DOT com> on Saturday October 28, 2000 @12:25PM (#668317)
    C:\WINDOWS\HOSTS for Win9x

    Then just

    or just use an IP of a homepage you want instead (like slashdot's ip :) )
  • by D. Mann ( 86819 ) on Saturday October 28, 2000 @12:00PM (#668318) Homepage
    People still actually use the 'Home page' feature? I've had my 'home page' set to a blank page for about 3 years, and ever since IE allowed customization of the toolbar, I haven't had a little 'Home' button.

    It's AOL's browser, they can do whatever they want with it. If you don't like AOL's browser, then don't use it. I can't imagine why anyone would in the first place; the thing is a piece of crap.
  • by yerricde ( 125198 ) on Saturday October 28, 2000 @12:34PM (#668319) Homepage Journal

    Is this an illegal way of pushing their own company, or is this just an inconvenience that 6.0 users will have to put up with?

    AOL users who are not 18 or older may not make TCP/IP connections from other browsers []; they must use the AOL browser and look at's banner ads.

  • by Private Essayist ( 230922 ) on Saturday October 28, 2000 @02:13PM (#668320)
    From the article:

    "According to AOL, removing the home page icon was a way to make the service simpler for subscribers without limiting their preferences."

    Got it? Removing a preference does not limit their preferences. And black = white and we have always been at war with Oceania.

  • by Anne Marie ( 239347 ) on Saturday October 28, 2000 @12:18PM (#668321)
    Let's look for a moment at aol's web page [] and see what all the fuss is about:

    Top news -- We should be encouraging AOLers to be informed about what's going on in the world. Maybe then the s/n on Usenet would improve.

    Shopping links --. Besides getting their porn fix, shopping is what most AOLers use AOL for.

    Stock quotes -- ditto for shopping.

    AOLEmail -- ditto for stock quotes and shopping.

    Web Channels -- discussion boards for all sorts of useful topics. Here, AOLers get to practice their online communication skills and learn the principles of netiquette before moving on out into the rest of the net. This is a good thing.

    All in all, it's a decent portal for newbies and hardly worthy of our derision: it doesn't even have too many ads, unlike certain other portals. Most newbies never change their homepages from netscape or microsoft anyway, and AOL is taking the prudent step of giving them one fewer thing to worry about.

  • My initial reaction was the same as yours... "Experienced Users... AOL?"

    But there are alot of people who do use AOL for one reason or another. Perhaps their family uses it, so they are stuck. This was a terrible move on AOLs part. Especially given that their latest browser actually recieved favorable press over at wired [], as a feature-full browser.

    Its easy to raise our noses and say, "It serves them right for being stupid enough to use AOL." But hey, AOL users have feelings too. Instead of this, we should all let AOL know how we feel. [] They claim that feedback is important to them, so let them know.

    Too many things in this world are a good idea from a commercial persective (now AOL gets advertesing revenue every time someone fires up that browser). However, when we do things to make money, we should always think about what it does to the consumer. What AOL has done here hurts the consumer, and I seriously hope that it bites them in the ass. Captain_Frisk
  • by Aaron M. Renn ( 539 ) <> on Saturday October 28, 2000 @11:56AM (#668323) Homepage
    Nobody forces you to use AOL. There are tons of ISP's out there. You can download IE for free. In fact, it comes default on almost every computer shipped. Netscape/Mozilla are also easily downloadable. I've never used AOL as my ISP and I don't feel limited in any way because I don't have access to their proprietary services. I just don't see them as a "gatekeeper".

    As for the cable networks, DSL is a competitor. Fixed wireless is a competitor. Heck, someday freespace lasers might be a competitor. I'm not horribly concerned about open access, particularly where a cable company is facing a multi-billion dollar price tag for upgrades that they are 100% taking the risk on. If cable modems don't take off or are obsoleted, the cable company could be left with billions in stranded capital. I'm sure that TW would be happy to give access to any ISP that is willing to share the cost and risk of building out the network. And AOL has said that they will follow an open access policy.
  • by Skim123 ( 3322 ) <[mitchell] [at] []> on Saturday October 28, 2000 @01:39PM (#668324) Homepage
    I see AOL as a content vehicle. They provide content to subscribers, that's what you're paying for (the Net access thing you can get for free). So.... isn't this a bit like complaining about a magazine's content?

    For example, I subscribe to Newsweek. If I don't like the content they are packing in their magazine, I will cancel my subscription. Now, I know you will all say, "What about the dummy users who don't have the tech skills to get online with an ISP?" Well, ISPs will have to make their services easier to use, or, if AOL becomes to annyoing for the average users, other AOL-like services will arise that will offer similar service but without the cramming content down your throat.

    The beautiful thing about capitalism is that companies can try different things. If those things are not successful (i.e. the customers don't like them), the customers can stop spending their money with the company, and said company will either change their methods or loose money. Anyway, I wonder what percentage of /. users are AOL subscribers... anyone care to admit to it? :-) Assuming there are so few AOL subscribers here, what's the big fuss!?

  • by Juggle ( 9908 ) on Saturday October 28, 2000 @06:20PM (#668325) Homepage
    The problem is if you want a blank page to come up instead of a start page you no longer have that option. Be this because you don't want to wait for AOL's news page or because you don't want to read AOL's news or because you want to open ./ as your home page instead dosen't matter. You can't change you home page at all.

    While this is their choice to remove this option it is one that I can easily see upsetting many people just for the reasons listed above.

    However even worse is the possibilities hinted at that Time Warner/AOL could use this to help sway public opinion in their favor. Image all of the people who use AOL having no choice but to at least be exposed to the news that TW/AOL chooses to show them. This could be highly biased "reporting" about why AOL is the only "real choice" for internet acces, or it could be a presidential endoresement. Heck it could be an ad for dog food. It dosen't matter these people are being help as a captive audience.

    One of the great things about the web is that you are never forced to view anything you don't want to. Well, that just ended for AOL users.

    Even worse this now gives the 'net a major down side against all other media. With your TV you can choose what channel appears when you turn it just by leaving it tuned to the channel you want. With your Cable box, VCR, or Stereo same thing. You can choose what you want. If you don't want to hear KGOD - all catholic metal all day then you don't have to. But with this new change for AOL if you use AOL as your ISP you no longer have a choice what you are subjected to when you log on.

    This is indeed a very scary thing. Image it spreading to your TV and stereo and then ask yourself why this is important.

  • by isdnip ( 49656 ) on Saturday October 28, 2000 @07:22PM (#668326)
    I've seen this story elsewhere, and while I haven't seen the AOL 6 software in use yet, at least one article contradicts the <b>assumption</b> that underlist most of the comments here.

    It appears that AOL changed the <i>manner</i> in which one's home page is set. It used to be very easy (so easy, even an AOLer could do it! :-) ) but now it is changed by going in to some preferences menu or such. In other words, it's not fixed, just not saying "change me" so loud.

    What's scary is the way some people use this minor change to call for governmental intervention. Do slashdotters really want the government to be regulating the design of software? (The MS antitrust case is utterly different, starting with its monopoly status, but it also wasn't about regulating the code per se.) Do slashdotters really want to government to be regulating Internet content providers?

    AOL doesn't own wires. They are basically a time-sharing house with a clever display technology. All of the non-web content is hosted in a big data center in Virginia. That's not even a classical ISP model. It's content. They lease their modems from UUNET, Genuity and Sprint. Like them or hate them, asking to regulate them is asking for trouble.
  • by Lordie ( 98168 ) on Saturday October 28, 2000 @01:00PM (#668327)

    When I read the story, I saw that they removed the 'Home' Button, but allowed for full customization of the toolbar with any icon you want pointing to any URL you want. Instead of having 'Home' point to a blank page, I could have an icon of a blank page to click on, right?

    How this is sabotaging AOL/TW, proving AOL users are inferior, showing that our online rights are being taken away, etc. is lost on me.

  • by istartedi ( 132515 ) on Saturday October 28, 2000 @12:57PM (#668328) Journal

    You can probably search the registry for and change it that way. I'd verify it, but in order to do that, I'd actually have to install AOL.

    Hmmm... if that turns out to be the case, then maybe I can do a little business selling AOL homepage unlockers.

    There is nothing that says a user can't edit the registry. OTOH, if they embedded it in the EXE, then you'd have to hexedit the program. It would be a real pain if they embedded it *and* obfuscated it.

    What happens if you set AOL as the default browser, and create an Internet shortcut on the desktop? That might be a real easy fix.

  • by Jack Valenti ( 242717 ) on Saturday October 28, 2000 @12:21PM (#668329) Homepage
    Reverse engineering is prohibited under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act which you must obey at all times. Even if you are in another country without the wonderful DMCA you should still heed it as it would be the right thing to do. The AOL software is not your property to fiddle with. You must use it according to the license agreement which is completely valid and legal. It's for your own good.

    Also the new hacking treaty would apply anyways as soon as it's rammed through Congress which will prohibit you from posessing any reverse engineering tools, compilers, assemblers, etc unless you are licensed by the Software Publisher's Agency, Motion Picture Agency, or the Recording Industry Agency. Of course your license would only be for approved uses. Hacking someone else's intellectual property without permission would still be unlawful... and intellectual property is property... PERIOD.

  • by llywrch ( 9023 ) on Saturday October 28, 2000 @12:58PM (#668330) Homepage Journal
    Once upon a time, I used to be an AOL customer. Then their service got worse (this was after the 5er's hacker attack), & after a few years I moved on.

    With that in mind, I have to share probably the most perceptive words on AOL ever written. From Michael Wolff's book, _Burn_Rate_:

    ``I never wanted to do a deal with AOL. At best, AOL just watered down the experience of the Internet and network technology; at worst, it was in some other business -- it was a direct marketing organization, infomercial shit.
    ``I never knew anybody who took AOL seriously as an Internet company.
    ``I never knew an AOL customer who didn't feel seriously abused by AOL.
    ``I never knew an AOL information provider who didn't feel that AOL was about to start turning the screws.
    ``I never knew an AOL executive who didn't think he or she was playing a part in a very serious shell game that, ideally, would end in an acquisition of AOL by a reputable company.
    ``I never knew anybody who really wanted to work for AOL, located in true Nowheresville, Virginia."

    Wolff wrote this in 1998, long after I left AOL. from what I've heard & read, AOL has gone even further downhill.

  • by EtherSnoot ( 19146 ) on Saturday October 28, 2000 @11:52AM (#668331) Homepage

    Experienced Users use AOL ???

  • by Xandu ( 99419 ) <matt@[ ] ['tru' in gap]> on Saturday October 28, 2000 @11:55AM (#668332) Homepage Journal
    I don't like AOL. Never have. However, if they want to take away the user settable home page button on their own browser, then why should we (non-AOL users) complain?

    Of course, if you are an AOL user, then complain (if it bothers you), or use a different browser to surf the web. If you think that AOL will now have too much control over where you visit, then stop paying for their service, get a different ISP.


In less than a century, computers will be making substantial progress on ... the overriding problem of war and peace. -- James Slagle