Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?
America Online

Has AOL Lost Its Sex Drive? 298

TheViewFromTheGround writes "Why have the years since the merger with Time Warner been so hard on America Online? Michael Wolff, a consultant who advised Time Warner not to buy AOL in the early 90's, says that the the big problem is Time Warner's denial of AOL's core value: a monopoly on dirty chat. The argument says that AOL was successful because they had a critical mass of people and that it skillfully marketed talking dirty by appearing to be family friendly. Now, the old media bedfellow is pushing AOL to stop its pimping ways."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Has AOL Lost Its Sex Drive?

Comments Filter:
  • Puritans! (Score:4, Funny)

    by kitzilla ( 266382 ) <> on Friday December 20, 2002 @05:12PM (#4932190) Homepage Journal
    Damn! They're taking away the last good thing about AOL. ;-)
  • ummm (Score:4, Funny)

    by goon america ( 536413 ) on Friday December 20, 2002 @05:13PM (#4932192) Homepage Journal
    Now, the old media bedfellow is pushing AOL to stop its pimping ways.

    Couldn't this have been worded better?

  • by vasqzr ( 619165 ) <vasqzr AT netscape DOT net> on Friday December 20, 2002 @05:13PM (#4932197)

    Compared to paying $2.99 a minute for a 976 number

  • by Randolpho ( 628485 ) on Friday December 20, 2002 @05:14PM (#4932201) Homepage Journal
    and they're what makes people leave AOL in droves.
  • A/S/L? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Rocky ( 56404 ) on Friday December 20, 2002 @05:14PM (#4932208)
  • by Queelix ( 635663 ) on Friday December 20, 2002 @05:16PM (#4932215)

    Time Warner's cable interests carry as much softcore porn as the next guy and that don't seem to bother them none.

    AOL's problems are market saturation pure and simple. No ISP can grow like AOL and others did in the late 90s and early 00s for ever.

  • by mhesseltine ( 541806 ) on Friday December 20, 2002 @05:17PM (#4932222) Homepage Journal

    Have you seen the number of Penis increasing emails in the average AOL user's mailbox? These people should have the libido of a rabbit on ecstacy.

    • by Mard ( 614649 )
      "Have you seen the number of Penis increasing emails in the average AOL user's mailbox?"

      Penis increasing? I hope you're talking about size and not number.
    • I'm sad to inform you that you've been affected by AOL.

      You no longer can discern the difference between "loose" and "lose".

      Cut your modem cable, pick up a real book, and you'll be cured by next week.
  • by Hanna's Goblin Toys ( 635700 ) on Friday December 20, 2002 @05:17PM (#4932224) Homepage Journal
    Put word filters on AIM? That just means the 13 year old punks are going to have to start AIM'ing me with "U R SOFA KING WE TODD DID"
  • Sex Drive? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Flamesplash ( 469287 ) on Friday December 20, 2002 @05:17PM (#4932225) Homepage Journal
    When exactly did AOL have a sex drive? The last thing I want to think about is AOL and sex. oh god, I need to go clean this filth off me now.
  • Wow! (Score:2, Funny)

    by bplipschitz ( 265300 )
    You mean it's *not* because AOL just sucks?

    Then it must be the superintelligent user base. . .
  • AOL (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Uhh_Duh ( 125375 ) on Friday December 20, 2002 @05:17PM (#4932231) Homepage

    AOL offers a community feel. A safe-place for internet non-newbies to get warm fuzzies and feel happy and loved. Unfortunately, there are so many other online communities that it's no longer necessary to pay $23.95 for constant busy signals.

    The primary reason people are still with AOL is that many of their subscribers don't feel like they have a choice. "I can't use something else because I don't know how to switch".

    I recently moved my mother-in-law from AOL to Earthlink. She thanks me to this day, even though it's something she could have done.
    • by Didion Sprague ( 615213 ) on Friday December 20, 2002 @06:08PM (#4932568)
      You know, all this "safe internet" shit really bothers me. I'm tired of "kids" movies. I'm tired of "kids" television. I'm tired of hearing everybody kow-towing (is that how that's spelled?) to kids.

      All, right, yes, yes, yes: kids are important. I know that. I don't deny that. But for fuck's sake: I'm important, too. And while my idea of decent entertainment isn't hardcore porn 24/7, it's not the teletubbies either. It's not Blues Clues. And it's not all the shit that the networks pimp out during their "safe hours."

      I watch the Sopranos because it's entertaining. I don't give a rat's ass if it's goddamn offensive, because life is fucking offensive. Sadaam Hussein is fucking offensive.

      Fundamentalist religious idiots offend me. I'm offended by Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, all the right-wing religious zealots who appear on late-night cable and who have -- I'll say this now because it's been on my mind for years -- the weirdest fucking hair-dos I have ever seen.

      What is it with these wacko Christian fudamentalists? What's with the hair? Why does all their hair -- men, women, it doesn't matter -- swoop and wave and look like Donald Trump on acid?

      Speaking of which, Donald Trump offends me.

      Bin Laden offends me.

      All this terrorism shit offends me. And, no, one man's freedom fighter is not another man's terrorist. If you fucking kill civilians -- innocent men, women, and children -- you're a goddamn terrorist. And you offend me. I don't give a fuck if you think the civilians are paying taxes to the evil government. You don't go killing people who can't defend themselves. Period. If you wanna blow shit up, put on a goddamn uniform, grab your rusty-ass Kalishnikovs, and goddamn claim a fucking state to be your backer. But don't hide in the fucking shadows.

      I'm tired of the Anti-Americanism. True, America is big and bad and loud. But we're not the *SOLE* cause of misery in the world. I'm tired of nations who just blame, blame, blame and don't accept even a modicum of responsiblity.

      I'm offended by the local news. I'm offended by dippy newscasters who worry about whether or not their colleagues have given them a good "segue" to talk about the next story. Because (a) no one except dippy newscasters give a fuck about "segues" and (b) no one but dippy newscasters tease their fucking audience so much and after *every* fucking segment.

      "But will this beautiful weather last? Tune in at 10!"

      "But will the snow come? Tune in at 10!"

      That offends me. Local news and the way they manipulate you. Not all media offends me. I like the New York Times. But the Chicago Tribune is a fucking joke. There's *nothing* to read in the Tribune. It's like some goddamn newspaper for fifth graders.

      Bob Greene creeped me out. But he's gone now. I knew he was bad news years and years ago. I'm disappointed it took this long to toss his ass out of the cubicle and onto the pavement.

      I miss Mike Royko. I like eating lunch at the Billy Goat Tavern. I like cheesburgers and Pepsi. So fucking sue me. I like the grease on the burgers.

      And I like White Castle. Bring it on, motherfucker. I'll take that bag of fifteen sliders. Sure, I'll get sick after I eat it and shorten my lifespan, but I'd rather shorten my fucking lifespan in one moment of enjoyment than worry about it being prematurely shortened by the four tons of VX that Sadaam has hidden in some Libyan bunker that'll get wheeled out and shipped back to Iraq once the shooting starts.

      My point? Life is offensive. Suck it up. I watched my share of Sesame Street and Electric Company and Mr. Rogers, but that's fine. Those shows were there for me. And I appreciated it. Just like Blues Clues and those fucking weird-ass teletubbies "Teletubby Bye Bye" are there, too. But give folks a break. Not everything has to be kid safe.

      ANd now, on-topic:

      The concept of an internet community is bullshit. AOL was never a goddamn community. It was dirty chat. Who here hasn't dirty chatted on AOL? No one.

      And who here realized after you dirty chatting you were chatting to some legless freak that was just duping your sorry ass into thinking, well, maybe this dirty chat stuff isn't so bad after all?

      Hell, I remember when AOL started and they charged by the hour. I ran up a goddamn huge ass bill on account of my pud-whacking chats to legless freaks of (most likely) both, neither, either, or sexes. God knows who I was talking to. But, the idea of a community is bullshit. It was just a place to talk dirty and hope for the best.

      Cross your fingers, maybe this freak is the girl/guy/whatever of your dreams. But of course it wasn't, and you immediately knew it when, after pressing for more information, you received the IM that said, "Well, wait. Listen. There's something you should know."

      Besides, if you want "safe" communities, there's the real world. Don't mistake virtual pudwhacking for real world social interaction. It never was, is, or will be. It's every man and women for themselves, god save the queen, hold your nose, because here I come, baby.

      Everybody whacks their puds, lets be honest. But lets at least stand up and like that guy in Network say, "I'm mad as hell and not going to take it anymore." At least not in the virtual wastelands like AOL.
      • by Fulcrum of Evil ( 560260 ) on Friday December 20, 2002 @06:20PM (#4932667)

        Denis Leary, is that you?

      • You just got added to my friends list.

        thank you.

      • And, no, one man's freedom fighter is not another man's terrorist. If you fucking kill civilians -- innocent men, women, and children -- you're a goddamn terrorist.

        You should be cautious of such absolutism. Using that argument, the U.S. is a terrorist organization a couple of orders of magnitude more deadly than al Qaeda. Though still a couple orders of magnitude behind Germany and Japan.
      • >>I don't give a fuck if you think the civilians are paying taxes to the evil government. You don't go killing people who can't defend themselves. Period.

        Just so we're clear, that would include retaliatory attacks' "collateral damage" too, right?
      • There is a lot out there catering to you, there are plenty of people who know "I'm important too". It's like the argument about women's rights: yes, men are important as well, but women need a chance to catch up after not being given a break for a long time. Sometimes it goes a bit too far, sometimes not far enough, but the idea is right. Likewise, you are important, but there needs to be a chance to create something for kids.

        Plus, you don't have kids do you?
      • This is either a huge troll or someone who just got burned on ebay. Or did you meet some "hot 15 year old" off AOL and are using your "one phone call" to send this post to /..
      • It's a Freedom of Speech thing, dude ... chill out. They have Freedom of Speech which is balanced by your Right to Be Offended.

        What turns it into a Really BAD Thing(TM) is that THEY want to exercise THEIR Right to Be Offended at the expense of YOUR Freedom of Speech.
  • by cxreg ( 44671 ) on Friday December 20, 2002 @05:18PM (#4932233) Homepage Journal
    like this []? If only I knew that AOL came with one of those before!
  • Ads (Score:2, Funny)

    by LooseChanj ( 17865 )
    This would be a perfect article for a 1,000 hours free ad.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 20, 2002 @05:22PM (#4932256)
    Would it be because these Sex Drives are manufactured by Western Digital?


  • by LordYUK ( 552359 ) <> on Friday December 20, 2002 @05:22PM (#4932259)
    400 pound 40 year old bald man AKA SexxyStud91134: A/S/L???
    400 pound acne ridden 38 year old balding woman AKA HotMomma92394848: 18/f/Miami u?
    SS: 19/M/Denver.
    HM: Sounds good, what you look like?
    SS: I am 6'5, 250 pounds of tight muscle. u?
    HM: 5'5 petite brown hair.

    (uploads random amateur porn star jpeg to each other and proceeds to cyber)

    Yeah, you know I'm right. And btw, I hate you HotMamma92394848 for ruining my dreams of AOL women!!!
  • Umm no (Score:3, Insightful)

    by unclelib ( 552196 ) on Friday December 20, 2002 @05:22PM (#4932264)
    The reason AOL is losing business is because anyone with half a brain sees that for $29.95 they can get cable or DSL. Once you've gotten a taste of always-on broadband, who would want measly 56k for almost the same price? AOL charges $23.95 for crumby dialup! And anyone can use AOL Instant Messenger to IM their AOL and internet buddies! What are they offering me? Once cable was available in my area I made the switch immediately!
    • Re:Umm no (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Pope ( 17780 ) on Friday December 20, 2002 @05:53PM (#4932473)
      My Dad uses AOL because they provide local dial-in numbers in a large number of countries. He travels a LOT for business, to places like Bangladesh, Brazil, Chile, etc. All those places have local numbers where he can dial in and get his email on his laptop.

      That DSL line at home isn't going to do him any good then, is it?

      Also, he's not a computer geek, so it's not like he cares about getting the latest release of Kazaa or anything.

      AOL may not appeal to you, but there are plenty of people out there for whom it works just fine, since their needs aren't very high. YMMV, mang.
      • I'm aware that traveling dialup users constitute a significant percentage of AOL's user base, and that's why I'm glad that AOL is going to be suffering from the fact that the world is becoming ever-more-wired these days. Just think, you could use some kind of network device (the first thing that comes to mind is a linux box because they're cheap) doing traffic shaping and give away modem-speed wireless internet if you were civic-minded. Terminate DHCP leases at a fairly short interval and when someone has been on for a long time and you're running out of available connections of bandwidth, kick off the oldest user... You could spread the average broadband connection pretty thin at modem speeds, I suspect we will (eventually) see a lot of that kind of thing.

        Your father's needs would be better suited (in a few years when the technology is even more ubiquitous) by a good internet-enabled cellphone, maybe with a keyboard. If all you're doing is email it seems the ideal solution... well, again, it will when the coverage in developing countries gets a little better. I think the low-cost temporary cell site products we're seeing come out lately will help that, people will soon be renting them to put on jobsites and such. Er, more people.

    • Re:Umm no (Score:3, Insightful)

      Except for those of us who live where DSL is 49.95 a month, and all the available ISPs are within a fwe dollars of each other, with AOL at the cheapest. And dont forget that brand new computer that came with 700 hours. Free.
  • by _Sambo ( 153114 ) on Friday December 20, 2002 @05:24PM (#4932277)
    It would please me to believe that the reason that AOL has declined is because the general public has become more tech savy and has realized that AOL posesses whatever system it's installed on. (The only "easy" way to exercise the system is to format and reload)

    But that would be oh so wrong.

    I think that the reason that the vaccuum you hear ,which is AOL sucking, is that people don't want to pay that much for something that helps them so little.

    As far as communities go, ask the MAC population about having a community. AOL users won't help each other out, based on their common choice of ISP.

    Grandma and Grandpa who have received 30 AOL CD's in the mail over the past years notice that the AOL price tag is equal to (Insert Local ISP Name Here)+ $12.00. They're not willing to pay anymore.

  • by RumpRoast ( 635348 ) on Friday December 20, 2002 @05:27PM (#4932296)
    AOL isn't having trouble because the software they make you use not only sucks, but also tends to jack up your whole computer?

    What, you say AOL is having trouble because they are charging 150% of what standard ISPs charge and give lesser service?

    Nah, it's the dirty chat thing...

    You should never blame evil or malicious behavior for what can be attributed to simple stupidity.

  • If I can't be dirty then I just don't feel right!

    To repress sexuality is to deny the very thing that makes being human fun!

    Gimme!Gimme!Gimme!Gimme!Gimme! Somethin' dirty!
  • Salon Article (Score:4, Informative)

    by webword ( 82711 ) on Friday December 20, 2002 @05:30PM (#4932319) Homepage
    Something else to read regarding AOL's current situation -- Saving AOL []
  • Well, it sells... (Score:5, Informative)

    by wls ( 95790 ) on Friday December 20, 2002 @05:31PM (#4932326) Homepage
    Back in the mid to late 80's, General Electric Information Services (GEIS) decided that they could put all the idle CPU time to good use if they could sell it after hours.

    As a result, GEnie was born. It started out with a few CB channels, minor chat capabilities, and some simple games.

    It soon became obvious that GEnie's popularity was beginning to grow beyond their wildest expectations, and this posed a new problem. The demands of GEnie were cutting into prime hours.

    So, GEIS raised the price of GEnie during prime hours.

    GEIS also did something pretty darn amazing. They gave free GEnie accounts to its employees, given these folks were already familiar with GEIS machines.

    What GEIS didn't realize was that they had just populated GEnie with a very heavy knowledge base. Interest and technical forums sprung up, all managed by the good natured GEIS folks having some fun.

    Additionally, these employees would put their kids on after hours to let them chat. That meant the parents (a.k.a. employees) were also policing things. If anything not appropiate for a child's eye came online, they'd call customer service, give their badge number, and problem solved.

    GEnie became known as having a reputation for good, clean family fun.

    But then GEIS realized that they had a good thing going, and the mandate was given to take away our acocunts. One by one people's accounts were being terminated without appeal.

    On top of that, it became discovered that the author of the CB program at GEnie had stuck in a backdoor to be able to covertly listen in on private conversations.

    A few people wrote clients that would encrypt the data first. They got their accounts taken.

    Eventually GEIS managed to eliminate all employee based accounts as a matter of policy.

    With the attraction of free access to experts, and hardly anyone left to manage the many forums, bit rot started to set in. Since there was no on going policing of the system, porn started to take over.

    This was enough to get rid of paying customers who were looking for that wholesome value.

    GEnie soon degraded into such a haven for perversion that GEIS decided to sell it off. And they did.

    There were issues about whether or not they'd be able to get the company that bought it to change the name of the service, since 'GE' stood out big and bold in the GEnie name.

    The last time I heard, GEIS apparently never followed up with selling of GEnie, apparently they never got a dime for it. Unfortunately, this last update is not something I witnessed first hand.

    It's ironic, but GEIS had GEnie sitting in the palm of their hand, and they decided to kill the golden goose by trying to charge employees. As such, they lost it all. Recently, I drove past their big building on Rt. 355 in Rockville, MD and it's obvious they closed up shop there.

    The bottom line is when you find a solution that works, ask yourself why it's working before you change it.
    • by Cy Guy ( 56083 ) on Friday December 20, 2002 @05:50PM (#4932451) Homepage Journal
      It's ironic, but GEIS had GEnie sitting in the palm of their hand, and they decided to kill the golden goose by trying to charge employees.

      But AOL certainly learned from the experience since what made AOL chat a success was the room monitors. Having to pay people to monitor all those chatrooms would have been prohibitive, so instead they let expereinced users get free accounts for putting in time as unpaid monitors, effectively adding thousands of employees to the payroll for just pennies an hour.

      GEnie should have just put a requirement on the free employee accounts that in exchange the employees would have to contribute a couple of hours a month to police the system.

    • maybe I'm wrong, but I thought GE moved to a location off Darnestown Road?

      100 Edison Park Drive
      Gaithersburg, MD 20878

      I think that's their new street address.

      (BACK ON TOPIC)- Its a similar story with Prodigy, too. They have a good thing going and the tried to squeeze a little more juice out. I remember the huge backlash when they decided to charge for E-mail! (a ludicrous proposition now, but remember this was 1992-3?)

      The bottom line is when you find a solution that works, ask yourself why it's working before you change it.

      just an addition: when you decide to capitalize on that thing that works, be wary that customers don't have any brand loyalty. And if you change something from free to pay, you might get the worst of all worlds- no customers.
  • by Typingsux ( 65623 ) on Friday December 20, 2002 @05:32PM (#4932335)

  • What crap (Score:5, Informative)

    by ipxodi ( 156633 ) on Friday December 20, 2002 @05:36PM (#4932363) Homepage
    I don't think I've ever read an article posted here that was such obvious tripe. AOL is not number one because they have sex chat, they're number one because they're EASY TO USE.
    Say what you will about AOL's reliability, tech support and the general IQ level of its users, it is and always has been pretty much "click-and-go".
    I set it up for people on occasion now and it just works. And when I used AOL in 1991-97 it was easy to use and "just worked" then too.
    (remember the DOS interface -- when there were only about 25,000 users?)
    • And there was no WWW. Back then they were not only easy to use but the only game in town for the average Joe. They provided the sort of service to the average home user that would be expected of an internet account, and did it without UNIX, archie, gopher, telnet and all that other arcane crap.

      But times change. Now the hardest part of setting up a DHCP account is typing in the names of your ISP's mail and news servers and your ISP will usually be glad to do this *for* a new account.

      AOL exists at all now on the pure inertia of already existing. But there's this thing called friction. . .

  • I remember way back when I used AOL. It was an ok service provider. I didn't get busy signals like everyone else. The only gripe I ever had with AOL as in ISP was that in order to connect you had to run the bloated memory eating AOL software. Whereas for another dial up ISP I could use the super lite built in windows dial up networking. I don't want to have to use up all my RAM just to establish a connection. I always ended up minimizing the AOL software and using netscape or other programs.

    AOL was always so dumb with the way they sent out their discs. I got some in collector tins (like altoids tins).

    Their problem isn't that somebody just up-and-decides they need internet access. It's in being around when somebody finally decides they do need to get online. Nothing about the AOL discs inspires someone to keep them around. What they should have been doing is include some additional content that makes you want to hold onto the disc. They're paired with TimeWarner for goodness sakes, you'd think that would give them compelling content. The folks in AOLs marketing department are just stupid with the way they spend money on those discs. (not that I'm not thankful for the few free DVD holder cases)

    I don't know if this is still true (the last time I used AOL was about '94), but once you started using the free hours, AOL needed a credit card number. Just in case you, uh, go over the limit. What they didn't tell you is that if you did go over the limit, you wouldn't be notified; they just quietly started billing you. Then it was the devil's own work to try and get them to stop, and especially to get your CC out of their database.
    • What they should have been doing is include some additional content that makes you want to hold onto the disc. They're paired with TimeWarner for goodness sakes, you'd think that would give them compelling content.

      Well they did recently run a promotion with CHEERIOS cereal to have the software included on the free DVD's glued to the cereal box.

      They also get there software included on most name brand PC's at the factory, and get there icon installed on your desktop everytime you download a new version Netscape.

      What surprises me is that they don't let you request a free Netscape installation CD with the AOL software on it. Instead they mail out AOL disks whether you want them or not, but if you want to get Netscape on CD you have to pay $5 shipping and handling.

  • by bogie ( 31020 ) on Friday December 20, 2002 @05:38PM (#4932379) Journal
    is that in their rush to embrace the Internet they made themselves obsolete. Throughout the early 90's AOL really did provide a lot of value add and made online communities and chatting accessible to the average computer user. By the mid 90's people were still using AOL because it was a safe way to ease into that "WWW thing" everyone was now talking about but still have acess to all that AOL content. Flash forward to the very late 90's and now and AOL has stopped producing anywhere near the amount of content that they used to. All the old cool things like AOL's gaming content just pushes you right back onto the internet. AOL in striving so hard to make sure people could access the internet through them has ceased to have any value beyond that of your basic ISP. All roads from AOL lead out to the internet and eventually most users ask themselves why bother with AOL and its bloated crappy software at all? AOL's user base has "grown up" and the user base which they pull from (newbies) are going to be in shorter and shorter supply as time goes on. Couple that with missing out on being bundled with XP and you see that AOL just don't have that great a future.
  • by kraksmoka ( 561333 ) <> on Friday December 20, 2002 @05:44PM (#4932416) Homepage Journal
    they sold their dating service, it was the only thing i ever used on the damn thing (boss paid for aol, i couldn't complain, just brought my own dsl). selling that service, was shooting one's self in the temple (not the head, obviously, that was well protected up their asses).

    fact is, all of my friends who were aol addicts were hooking up with girls online. that's why they had aol, period. now, they're doomed to be a first rate version of msn, and that aint sayin much.

    • So who bought their dating service? It should still be useful if AOL keeps redirecting people there, as long as AOL is still large... which should continue for quite a while.

      AOL ought to convert themselves to a content warehouse/retailer and an ISP, as separate businesses. If you use them as an ISP you should get a discount on their data. Maybe they can drum up money renting all that vaunted content instead of selling it outright in the way that companies are always telling us you can't do with an idea.

  • Why people hate AOL. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Esther Sassaman ( 633346 ) on Friday December 20, 2002 @05:44PM (#4932418) Journal
    Why people hate AOL:

    They force you to use their dialer, meaning you can't do simple dial-up networking sharing, auto-dialing. Other ISPs use these but still allow you to set up an (unsupported) PPP connection using standard tools

    Said dialer software is full of adverts. AOL/Time Warner removed popup handling abilities from Netscape for this reason, I believe.

    At one point, you had to use their own browser

    It forces you to have Real Player installed (evil) and complains every time you dial in if you remove it

    They ask for your credit card during the trail for verification etc then automatically start billing you without warning. Cancelling used to be difficult and often went "wrong".

    You are paying over the odds because the service has great customer help, which is useless to techies. (I'd recommend it to non-techies for this reason tho)

    They send junk mail. Lot's of it. Regularly. To the same people.

    Said junk mail is not just recyclable paper, it's a cd-rom and a complete waste of resources and bad for environment as it needs to be disposed of in landfills.

    Typically, lamers and newbies were on AOL. A large majority of HTML posts to usenet are from AOL and other anti-social net activites are common, hence the term AOLamer

    They encourage parents to give up responsibility for their children's safety into the hands of parental controls in software.

    They encourage parents to give up responsibility for helping their children with their education since "homework help is just a breeze on AOL"

    Their business model depends on people no realising that they are out of free hours and are going to be charged unless they perform some frustrating and time-hungry tasks to cancel the service. Essentially, they depend on the users thinking they know the whole story when really, they don't until they are forced to pay more.

    They give a misconception of 'the internet' to new users. Some people think that surfing aol:// addresses means they are on the internet.

    They are an ecological menace. Most of the CDs they send out are trashed. Also, consider the waste put out to make the components of the CDs and electricity expended to make something which just fills our landfills faster.

    They reward ignorance. They make it acceptable for you to know nothing about computers and be happy with it even though you are using them as an integral part of your life. (Please no automobile analogies.)

    The stifle choice. Supposedly part of the big news for AOL 8 is that you can now choose between 8 welcome screens and change the colours of your AOL interface ... oooooh ....

    It takes a everything short of a lawsuit to make them stop billing you.

    AOL does not introduce people to the Internet, it dumbs down the Internet, thereby hurting the users in the process. 90% of the AOL users I've had to deal with think their Web Browser is the "Internet". And after years of thinking this, it is almost impossible to get them to understand the truth.

    AOL harbors undesirable individuals much like certain middle eastern nations harbor militant terrorists. What's worse, with all the free 1000 hour disks floating about, individuals who mean ill to the 'Net at large can easily gain free access over and over to do more damage.

    The service is crap. But since most AOL users have been coddled for so long, they CAN'T learn to use anything else; they are stuck w/ sub par service...

    If I think of some more reasons (I know there's a few more)... I'll post another response... :P

    Just a few thoughts from the top of my head... ;-)

    • by Anonymous Coward
      [i]Their business model depends on people no realising that they are out of free hours and are going to be charged unless they perform some frustrating and time-hungry tasks to cancel the service. Essentially, they depend on the users thinking they know the whole story when really, they don't until they are forced to pay more.[/i]

      reminds me of how I got a lifetime ban from AOl one summer back in their early days (95 or 96 I think). There would send me stacks of their free hours (25 at the time) diskettes. So I would collect them and keep them in a pile near my computer. I'd sign up for an account. And keep a stop watch running while I was online. When I hit about the 20 hr mark I'd call, cancel the account (which took about 3 hrs minimum, but I had a lot of time on my hands that summer), then pull out a new trial diskette code and sign up for a new account under a different name and address (but with same credit card, which is how they found me). I ran this scam for about 2 1/2 before someone caught on and the sent me a bill for just over $1500. Luckily my Mom is a lawyer and threatened to counter sue. I guess they didn't want the bad plublicity so they settled out of court fairly quickly. I got a lifetime ban from all AOL services and they got $0.

  • Finally the truth is out. I remember when I left aol this is back like 6 years ago to use earthlink and IRC to chat. I tried and failed horrible to get all my friends from school to log unto IRC with no luck. finally I had to go back to AOL in order to talk to everyone I knew. However with Yahoo,msn,icq messenger the whole chat concept is no longer just aol. I haven't been on AOL since 3.0 killed my computer.
  • by usermilk ( 149572 ) on Friday December 20, 2002 @05:53PM (#4932479)
    The article has an interesting point of view, however I think AOL is failing due to stagnation. The article touches on this a little, AOL hasn't innovated in years. Seriously, no matter how lame AOL is in reality, they did make some great innovations in instant chat. All the new AOL releases over the past 2+ years haven't added much besides a new revision number.
  • by kraksmoka ( 561333 ) <> on Friday December 20, 2002 @05:57PM (#4932502) Homepage Journal
    until recently, i have been out of the BIG corporate business world, choosing more artistic, and entrepreneurial clients.

    being back only reminds me of one thing. Truly large CORPORATIONS do NOT HAVE SEX DRIVES (m$ excluded, but they just get off on fucking other companies up the ass). fact is, corporates lust for power. aol was never the monolith that TW is, until today. they were a very flat corporate culture comapared to TW.

    bottom line. using the words corporate and sex together is silly. your warning level is at 20%, thank you, drive thru.

  • AOL was the first online service to embrace Windows GUI. This was natural because it evolved froom a Mac company.

    It beat Compuserve out. I know this from first hand experience working at TSN, another pre-internet online-service that at one time had the same number of user as AOL (but we were a game service, not general) and I watched AOL skyrocket from shipping it's Windows client when Compuserve thought DOS was a better way to go. When Compuserve came out with WinCIM, it was too late for them. It was the mid nineties and many companies got rewarded/spanked by betting on Windows/NotBettingOnWindows.

    They had critical mass first.

    Now there is critical mass everywhere.

    Which of course means next comes a nuclear explosion...

    or wait, did we already have one?
  • get's it? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rodentia ( 102779 ) on Friday December 20, 2002 @06:07PM (#4932565)
    ...the Time Warner people, who know a thing or two about advertising, correctly surmised that advertising was not going to support the Internet. And so the plan was to sell users Time Warner content. (In my personal defense, I kept talking about what a dirty place AOL was -- that the Internet was the porn business. But the feeling seemed to be that, first, I was joking and, second, while new entertainment technologies often started dirty, they soon became much more sanitized and mass-market.) This service, which started in the autumn of 1994 and closed in the spring of 1999, was called Pathfinder and proved two things: Selling Time Warner content on the Internet was pretty much a nonstarter, and the people at Time Warner lacked a certain flair for the Internet. We just don't get it, they said. Which was the essential reason for merging with AOL. [Emphasis mine.]

    I'm not sure that Mike's getting it any more than TW. Does anyone with any sense imagine that *this internet thing* is going to fall apart if someone can't figure out how to make money on it with standard advertainment/publimation models? Even in '94. And dirty chat is a killer app?
  • by Aqua OS X ( 458522 ) on Friday December 20, 2002 @06:12PM (#4932600)
    AOL has been on it's way out for years. Time Warner's merger with AOL was dumb.... and not just "regular" dumb... really really dumb.

    At one point in time AOL had a fairly nice product to offer; however, over time AOLs service became bloated, annoying, sloppy, and restrictive. Fortunately, AOL had the dot-com bubble to keep them, and their horrible product, profitable. AOL had tons ad revenue coming in from numerous dot com companies, and many consumers where still new to the concept of being "online."

    Yet now most of AOLs ad clients have either bit the dust or come to realize that banner ads and spam are not necessarily the best way to advertise. Moreover, now that a number of people in the world have had a chance to use the internet sans AOL (ie, LANs at work, schools, libraries, etc), folks are beginning to realize that AOL is a huge POS.

    If Time Warner actually -thought- about what AOL was selling and how they were making money I doubt these two companies would have merged. But, hey, that didn't happen.
  • IM on AOL (Score:2, Interesting)

    by xombo ( 628858 )
    AOL was not the first company to deploy an instant messaging service that was availible internet wide, ICQ was and that is where the whole cyber-sex thing started. It was easy to find a partner via ICQ and it's random "Men Seeking Women" (etc...) friend finder was a god-sent to helpless, love-sick nerds everywhere (all-be-it porly sorted and managed). Simply put, AOL took an existing technology, put a family friendly coat of make-up on it and a "I don't like those dirty bad nasty words" fuction and called it good for a mere ~$23. Once again we've seen a monopoly take an existing technology [], made it friendly [], then made it availible []. The only step that they're missing from various other monopolies is making it cheap []. The last thing most of us will ever dream of seeing is an AOL user switching over to a better, faster connection.
    • Have you noticed that people get confused in ICQ about the Men seeking women thing?

      Does it mean Men who are seeking women, or Men-seeking women (like missiles) :o)

      At least it seems that a lot of Johnny Foreigners do.
    • Re:IM on AOL (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Thyrsites ( 635775 )
      Actually, cyber sex predates ICQ by a country mile...ever hear of telnet? Muds, Mushes and Moos had other forms of action beyond hack and slash.

  • by budcub ( 92165 ) on Friday December 20, 2002 @06:29PM (#4932741) Homepage
    I got AOL and an ISP account at the same time, in December 1995, and I've kept both. Why? Because I can hook up and get laid from AOL chat rooms, while on IRC I'd only meet freaks. That's a generalization, but its true. I've met mostly freaks on IRC while on AOL I'm much more likely to meet a regular person. Also, they have a "bring your own access" plan, where you pay a much lower fee each month, and access them through TCP/IP and an ISP. Its much faster than dialing up anyways.

    Ever since I've been on, AOL has monitored the language of chat rooms, which is pretty damn annoying, but it explains why you go into a room and no one says anything, we're all IM-ing each other.

    Does anyone remember when you get get real porn from AOL picture galleries? It was sometime in the early 90's. When they decided to go "family friendly" they first blacked out all the genital areas, then got rid of the nudie galleries all together.

  • The best thing about AOL when you're a newbie is the fact it uses it's own TCP/IP stack.
    The worst thing about AOL when you're no longer a newbie is that it uses it's own TCP/IP stack.

    It used to, anyway. If my memory serves me right.

    And girls in those days didn't say "I don't talk to people I don't know" when you IM'd them ;)
    • It still does, and when I tried to talk to their Tech support people about registry changes made in the install process, they were clueless, and refuesed to help me.
      I endedup having to burn a clients data to CDs (10 of them) and wipeing/reloading to get the ethernet connection working becuase it had screwed up the TCP/IP stack so badly.

      I don't know about 8.0, but 6.0 would not just use their own TCP/IP stack, but appeared to overwrite the windows stack
  • 2 old roommates. Two guys, just like the pervs described in the article. They would get on AOL and search for user profiles that contained words like "drink" or "party". Then they would send instant messages to these girls (aka "AOL sluts") for 6 hours/day. Once they started talking to a girl, they'd start sending nude pics of themselves to these girls, and sure enough, the girls would come over within a few days. We're talking 2-3 girls per week, n/k. It all came to a halt a while ago when one of them caught a nasty case of the clap. Of course he got it from an AOL hookup and found out he had it by giving it to a different AOL hookup. Without AOL, these guys would have no social life. Anyone else know people like this?
  • AOL was (is?) a huge singles bar. Someone said about the early days of the* newsgroups that a rock had been turned over exposing and amplfying what had been on/in the minds of Americans. AOL made more money than the biggest internet porn dude.

    Time Warner had It's A Wonderful Life, AOL had teenagers curious about bondage. Which is worth more?

  • by Jace of Fuse! ( 72042 ) on Friday December 20, 2002 @07:35PM (#4933206) Homepage
    Isn't everybody using YAHOO now anyway?

    I mean seriously, you can search out a chat-room by your state, do voice with the whole room, deal with booting, view web-cams, and basically just talk some serious shit to underage and overweight people.

    I thought Yahoo Fuck-Chat was WAY more popular than AOL Fuck-Chat these days? Maybe AOL just never noticed this?

    *(You boot them or they boot you... it becomes a pissing contest about who is the bigger skript kiddie, of course... but that's life in this primarily lamer-driven internet we live in now days.)
  • well, (Score:5, Funny)

    by FakePlasticDubya ( 472427 ) on Friday December 20, 2002 @07:38PM (#4933235) Homepage
    not only was the sex drive lost, the whole array went down.

  • AOL Keyword: Dirty-Smutty-Pr0n-Chat-For-40-Year-Old-Preverted-M en-Who-Don't-Shave-Their-Backs
  • by Apathetic1 ( 631198 ) on Friday December 20, 2002 @07:59PM (#4933395) Journal

    AOL succeeded in creating a simple, orderly, largely text-based chat client -- the first to work effortlessly.

    Uh huh. Was this before or after IRC?

    Next, AOL developed the Instant Message (IM), through which you could talk directly to anyone else online; then it offered a searchable database of fellow chatters that grew to vast proportions (any interest or kink was immediately searchable); and in 1996, it introduced the Buddy List, through which you could monitor the comings and goings of anyone who interested you (or whose kink interested you).

    So now they're trying to tell us that AIM came out before ICQ? ICQ was the first Instant Messenger I used. I remember when AIM came out and it was LONG after ICQ. Then AOL bought Mirabilis and the ICQ client slowly degenerated into an advertising channel with a messaging feature. (Now I use Miranda [])

    This simple technology -- nontechnical people really couldn't chat anywhere else online -- was the engine of AOL's wild growth.

    'scuse me?! I was using ICQ over dial-up almost five years ago, if I've done the math right. The friend that introduced me to it had a five digit ICQ number. My sister got an ICQ account before AIM came out and she's non-technical. Then all her friends signed up.

    And finally, AOL extended its chat range with the AIM applet, which could be used from outside the walls of AOL to chat with other AOLers (and other AIMsters).

    I'll let them off the hook for the last one because ICQ2Go didn't come around until after Mirabilis was purchased by AOL. There may still have been someone who did it before they did, I don't know.

  • Back from the future...

    You've seen all of the changes to the SCSI standards over the years. SCSI 1,2 3, wide, fast-wide, ultra, ultra 2. Next will be SCSI extended, or Sex. So hard, fast, swollen and throbbing that no one will be able to resist walking in to a computer store and proudly saying. I've earned enough to BUY a BIGGER Sex drive. What have you got? I need more room for PR0N!
  • by Ryan Amos ( 16972 ) on Friday December 20, 2002 @08:19PM (#4933510)
    where the men are men, the women are men, and the boys are FBI agents.
  • by Tim Macinta ( 1052 ) <> on Friday December 20, 2002 @08:20PM (#4933511) Homepage
    ...Michael Wolff, a consultant who advised Time Warner not to buy AOL in the early 90's...
    I'm pretty sure it was AOL that bought Time Warner [] (which is why it was such a shocker at the time). Not sure that it matters, though it does seem odd that Time Warner would be dictating to AOL considering they were the ones bought.
  • Lost Sex Drive? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Sir Network ( 183139 )
    All the lost sex drive of a serial child molester.
    Have they stopped repeatedly screwing their customners in the ass with their poor service, high rates, and popup ads?

    No? Then make sure that they register as a sex offender in your state and watch your kids.

  • Flashback (Score:3, Funny)

    by ksw2 ( 520093 ) <obeyeater@gma i l . com> on Friday December 20, 2002 @08:34PM (#4933586) Homepage
    ...just got a sudden flashback of 17 years ago, AOL was spankin' new, and my mom walked in just as somebody started talking about "stimulating g-spots" in some chat room.. Needless to say I was in trouble... ugh
  • by Taurine ( 15678 ) on Saturday December 21, 2002 @07:59AM (#4935578)
    The author of the article, Michael Wolff, wrote a book called Burn Rate back in 1998. Its all about how his small media company got sucked into the DotCom revolution, nearly made him very rich and nearly bankrupt, and generally pointed out that the bubble was going to burst, two years before it did. Most of his attempts to sell his company for lots of cash involved AOL, so he has plenty more to say about them in the book. And he made this point about AOL as the 'ultimate brown paper bag' in that book, so the article in a large part is just a rehash of his own work of four years ago. Still, a good book and a decent article.

The relative importance of files depends on their cost in terms of the human effort needed to regenerate them. -- T.A. Dolotta