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America Online

AOL Subscribers Finding Greener Pastures 259

Mitch writes "The Register is reporting that America Online has lost close to 2 million customers since September 2003. At the end of September they had 22.7 million customers in the US which was down more than 500,000 since the beginning of the quarter. This news comes one day after it was announced that more than 700 jobs would be cut from Virginia offices by the end of this year."
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AOL Subscribers Finding Greener Pastures

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  • by Evangelion ( 2145 ) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @09:51AM (#10722525) Homepage

    That the September finally ended?

    • Re:Does this mean? (Score:5, Informative)

      by hab136 ( 30884 ) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @09:57AM (#10722571) Journal
      That the September finally ended?

      Since there's two replies already that don't get it, parent is referring to the September that never ended []

      • a similar thing happened when Compuserve opened up usenet access to it's customers...
        • a similar thing happened when Compuserve opened up usenet access to it's customers...

          Also when my department opened up the bathroom on my floor to the general company.. poop everywhere!!

      • []

        From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
        Eternal September (also September that never ended or endless September) are Usenet slang expressions for the period of time beginning September 1993. The use of these expressions implies the belief that standards of discourse and behavior on Usenet have declined since 1993 due to an unending influx of new users.

        Usenet originated among universities. Every year, in September, a large number of new university students got a
    • Nah (Score:5, Insightful)

      by wiredog ( 43288 ) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:06AM (#10722647) Journal
      They're all moving over to their local cable and telephone companies. Which have even lower security than AOL. Expect more worms, viruses, and general whackiness than when AOL was between them and the Wild Wild Net
      • Re:Nah (Score:5, Informative)

        by Southpaw018 ( 793465 ) * on Thursday November 04, 2004 @11:38AM (#10723797) Journal
        Not so true. AOL is the internet for complete morons - they do everything for you from virus protection to including non-standards-compliant hacked web browsers (mostly versions of ie now) so that you get it all in one application. They also have the insufferable "keywords" so that you don't have to use something that takes a little effort. Like Google.

        Local cable and telephone companies expect you to do these things yourself because you're a human being that deserves to have choice (and a normal internet access program that doesn't permanently destroy your computer's tcp/ip settings).

        As someone who works regularly [] with people who know little to nothing about computers and technology, I've found that AOL users have absolutely no safe browsing habits to speak of, normally aren't aware that they need a firewall or sometimes even virus protection, and pretty much depend on AOL to do everything for them. I know that's a sweeping generalization, but it's what I've found. On the other hand, even folks who aren't very tech savvy but use a "normal" ISP have at the very least nominal safe browsing habits, and many are quite good at detecting viruses and phishing scams in email and knowing when they shouldn't click on the "yes to install this java package" button.
    • by slothbait ( 2922 ) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:08AM (#10722662)
      I would go check on the newsgroups, but I am still afraid.

      Now excuse me while I reminisce by idling on an IRC server that has no services.
    • Nope. Today is the 4082nd day of September, 1993. It still hasn't ended. It may never end. There will always be AOLers fucking things up for the rest of us.

      the AC
  • by kalpol ( 714519 ) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @09:52AM (#10722532)
    Why do the remaining 20 million stay? There is nothing on AOL that can't be accessed from the internet at half the cost.
    • by Ralph Wiggam ( 22354 ) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:01AM (#10722612) Homepage
      AOL is like the Disneyland of the internet. Everything is clean and there are signs everywhere. Everything also costs more. Lots of people can't handle it in the real world, so they stay in Disneyland.

    • by Elminst ( 53259 ) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:02AM (#10722618) Homepage
      This is the burning question... And not only that, AOLs prices have gone UP over the past 5 years. Unlike every other dialup service that has started offering lower rates and lower usage plans; AOL unlimited accounts have jumped 3-5 bucks in price for the same (or worse) crap.
      When I worked for a local ISP in 99, we had AOLers switching to us to save money (us 17.95, AOL 21.95). Now I have AOL customers coming in our shop saying they're paying 24.95 for dialup!!
      WTH is that? In some places, you could get cable for 10 bucks more. And most DSL providers have plans under $30 that are screaming fast compared to AOL.
      Why do they stay with AOL???
      • <i>Why do they stay with AOL???</i>

        I thought it's a Law of physics: inertia.
      • by nospmiS remoH ( 714998 ) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:37AM (#10722941) Journal
        I pay $26.95 for a 3Mbit down / 256 Kbit up over cable. I remember in the early 90's when I was first exposed to a locak dialup and I literally said outloud, "Well then, why does anyone need AOL anymore?" I thought AOL's days were numberd but I never knew that number was in the thousands.

        Life lesson => Never underestimate the ignorance of pretty much everyone.
      • I must confess - I am not a novice at the net - I've been on the Net for many years - I'm on a broadband connection, with all the protection one needs, and my own blog. But I subscribe to AOL for Broadband. Mostly for the content - Newspass, music, video. I had it free for 6 months - I'm paying 14.99 now. Ok! I surrender! Tt makes no sense! I'm gonna call and cancel! - if they let me.
        • by Deekin_Scalesinger ( 755062 ) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @12:11PM (#10724376)
          and they won't let you. Here's a fun story.

          I finally convinced my wife to drop AOL last year when we were in a bit of a money crunch. They would not accept our cancellation instructions and made it very difficult to leave. Rather than change my credit card number to get rid of them, I decided I would make it advantageous for them to drop me.

          I created a screen name called CacaPooPoo (I forgot the exact name, but it wasn't far from this) and went a trolling. Trolled long and hard, far and wide. I went into religious chat rooms and spewed forth such vile language that Penisbird would be ashamed. Of course they threatened to report me - I sneered at them and went on my merry way into the next chat room. Merriment ensued.

          A solid hour after starting this, I finally got booted off with a message on the screen to call them at 800-xxx-xxx to discuss my behavior. Intrigued, I called and spoke to an Indian woman in their abuse department. I mentioned that I was booted off and wasn't sure why. She explained to me that a screen name called BigCacaPooPoo was reported as spamming repeatedly in all caps "I WANT TO GREASE YOUR MOUTH UP WITH MY POO!" in Christian Chat 87. I let her know that I was indeed aware of this behavior and that I was trying to get the account cancelled. I said those exact words. She replied that they would consider this a warning and reactivate the account. I mentioned that even though I was trying to get it cancelled and was aware of the behavior (seeing as it was me that did it), did I understand her correctly that I was being reactivated? Yup, she said. Thanking her for her time and good efforts, I went back at it and trolled with renewed vigor. Along with this I found a message in my mailbox from a specific TOS person or whatever they call it, advising me that further offenses would not be tolerated. I replied to him with 4 pages of "F*** YOU" c/p'ed over and over and some ASCII art of goatsee.

          Alas, my time was marked at that point. Ten minutes later I was booted off of AOL with a message stating that my account was cancelled. Success! I had accomplished my seemingly simple goal and have a bit of fun doing it. Juvenile? Of course. However, look deep inside yourselves and ask the kid in you if you wouldn't have done the same thing. You are offered too few chances in life to act like a bull in a china shop with the result that you wanted in the first place. Seize the chance! Troll now, have some fun and save yourself $14.95 in the bargain!
    • by swordboy ( 472941 ) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:05AM (#10722636) Journal
      Why do the remaining 20 million stay?

      Because it is easy.

      I used to scoff at AOL users like everyone else here on /. but I've found one thing:

      AOL keeps people from calling me.

      I'm sure everyone knows what it is like to become the local "support geek". I used to get teased for being a geek and now people can't stop calling me. But I have found that AOL users call me less. So I encourage AOL usage - especially for people with children.

      Certainly it isn't perfect, but it does say a lot when someone gets broadband and then ditches AOL only to renew their subscription because of how easy it is. I see this a *lot*.

      As a side note, AOL would be wiped out if someone came up with a broadband modem that implemented a really good content filtering. Something like Dan's Guardian [] in a small, user friendly box that had easy bypass controls for adults. I do realize that most off-the-shelf routers will do primitive keywork content filtering but this could be improved upon.

      Maybe AOL should get into the router/firewall business? To date, nobody has made this technology easy for Joe and Jane Six Pack to use.
      • Linksys routers are pretty easy, if you don't have a mental block about setting them up. Hardest part is messing with Ethernet cables.

        To which end the Apple Airport access points, which work with any 802.11b or 802.11a device from a TiVo with a USB adapter up to a Mac G5, aren't much trouble to set up or even to administer, though of course wireless security is always a bit tricky until you get the hang of it.
    • by Tar-Palantir ( 590548 ) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:12AM (#10722695)
      Well, I will tell you why one customer stays. My grandfather has been with AOL for years. He hates it: the buggy software crashes on him regularly, connection is not especially reliable, etc.

      Unfortunately, he is the author of a lot of articles in journals in his field and is well known in this field. This means that his email address is published a *lot*. Leaving AOL would necessitate the huge hassle of changing and updating his email address.

      And then, of course, he is also 72 years old and not especially computer adept. He *does* want to leave AOL, but for better or worse he knows how to use the program. We've talked about DSL, but the extra speed matters little to him.

      Basically, he stays with AOL because it is easier for him than the alternative.
    • You've obviously never used AOL, it has tons of exclusive contant not available anywhere else, though not as much as it used to where it was THE online (online isn't always the internet) presence for many companies.
    • by acomj ( 20611 )
      My cousin tried to switch off AOL. His Kids raised Holy hell because of the IM and email accounts. ALthough I'm pretty sure you can use AOLIM without AOL...

      Anyway he tells me if you "bring your own access" AOL is 1/2 the price.
    • Basically three reasons. Tradition, relative reliability (you don't get disconnected enough to piss some people off), and the fact that they won't let you go -- they bounce you around and around if you try to cancel, and in my experience for a month or two after you finally get them to they may just keep billing you. Then come all the "Please come back!" messages, by mail and I think by phone. For someone who switched to an unreliable service, they'd be coming straight back to AOL. For everyone else, th
    • well i used to use aol many, many, moons ago when i dident really know any better. sooner or later when i started seeing pop-up ads appear *before* windows explorer had shown me my icons is when i really went gung-ho from a typical aol'er point of veiw.. i'd have to say that i am much, much, more on top of the tech/geek issues then i was before, but at a cost that no typical aol'er can stand.

      for instance the cost of letting go (i.e. wasting time learning new standards) is enough to keep aol'ers there. my g
    • by Total_Wimp ( 564548 ) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:58AM (#10723193)
      Why do the remaining 20 million stay?

      What?!?! I can't believe anyone would ask such a dumbass question! People stay with AOL because:

      1. They like phone lines. Ethernet cables are bad and complicated, unlike phone-lines thate are simple and ubiquitus.

      2. Broadband is TOO FAST! Have you seen those crazy kids with their suped-up thingmajigs just zooming by you at every web site? It's just plain scary.

      3. Ads are comforting. I get advertisements on my TV so I deserve to get advertisements on my internet too. Why would I want a substandard internet that's not even good enough for advertising? Since I get AOL ads, AND the ads for the web sites I visit, my comfort level is at least doubled.

      4. Credit card debit is the way to go. Why get a monthly bill and write a monthly check like you would for your phone service or cable service? That's so 20th century. I trust my ISP so I want them to just take my money.

      5. You just can't use AIM without AOL service, can you?

      6. Kids love it! Theres no danger or smut available from AOL and there never was. It's 100% safe and wholesome.


      • I just love how they have advertisements on the most expensive "premium" online service. That, along with their network difficulties, ran me off of their service back in 1997. Good thing these people don't run HBO or Cinemax, I bet they would have ads in the middle of the movies.
  • by JustNiz ( 692889 ) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @09:54AM (#10722538)
    sending out those free coasters, they'd save some money and not have to fire staff.
  • Lite Client (Score:5, Insightful)

    by joel8x ( 324102 ) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @09:54AM (#10722544) Homepage
    Maybe they should stop focusing on "Making the internet better" and make it less cumbersome for their users. Each version is so much worse than the last. And why are they still using IE at the core when they own the development of the world's best browser???

    • Re:Lite Client (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Jim Hall ( 2985 ) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:06AM (#10722654) Homepage

      Maybe they should stop focusing on "Making the internet better" and make it less cumbersome for their users.

      Their last round of commercials doesn't help that image. My personal favorite is the one that implies all the AOL users hate the service. You know the one - long line of AOL users, asking to see the president because they have an idea on "making the internet better". And the line becomes a huge crowd of people outside.

      A non-technical friend of mine saw that commercial, and his immediate impression was "Wow, AOL must _really_ suck if everyone hates it that much." That certainly seems to be the message they're sending with that ad.

    • And why are they still using IE at the core when they own the development of the world's best browser???

      I believe because Netscape is usage is quickly succumbing to the spread of Mozilla/Firefox.

      Also, I seem to remember a previous /. article where AOL was going to consider using Nutscrape as the default browser on their coasters but then struck up a deal with Microsoft to use IE instead in return for an AOL logo on every new Windows install. I'd look for the /. article but don't have time at the moment.

    • Maybe they should stop focusing on "Making the internet better"

      Or maybe they asked for ways to make the Internet better, and their customers went out and found them: Netzero and broadband. AOL For Broadband is not taking off, and never will, since the Internet itself provides all the content most people will ever want. Tamed by Google, there is no need for a general-purpose portal like AOL.

      Aside from being the default home page for a legacy user base, few have any reason to use the service.

      In sho

  • What?!
    Is the collective internet IQ average actually rising? People are realizing that paying $27 for a dialup account is a rip off?!

    who r u gon make fun of on teh intarwebs nemore?? omgwtfbbq!!!11one
    • by MyLongNickName ( 822545 ) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:13AM (#10722716) Journal
      Kind of funny. Kind of elitist.

      I think that the average user is getting more EDUCATED, not more intelligent. Lemme give you an example. Today at work, we receive approximately 27,000 metric tons of information about changes to our health care plan. I consider myself relatively intelligent, with a good amount of education. However, the volumes of information are not in my realm of expertise. The HR folks seem to think we should be able to absorb all this information and make an intelligent choice for our families within two weeks.

      For someone who is absorbed in this stuff, this is probably very straightforward. To someone who is in the tech field, understanding service providers, and "what the internet is" is relatively trivial.

      The danger becomes that or profession looks down on the majority of folks who don't have a clue. It isn't because they are stooopid. It is because the mechaniscs of the computer world does not interest them. Our job is to serve those folks, help them to make better choices, make it EASIER to make those choices.

      Overall, I think we've done well, but then there are posts like this, which I HOPE are the minority.

      If we all had the same gifts, this wold be a boring world.
      • Uh huh...tell me that again when I get back from fixing my friend's sister's machine that she claims she never mucks with but things mysteriously stop working anyways. In fact, I'm getting ready to leave soon for her place. The day I start getting paid $40 an hour for putting up with this bullshit is the day I stop looking down at these people. Until then, it's my right, and pretty much my only payment...
  • by Richthofen80 ( 412488 ) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @09:57AM (#10722569) Homepage
    People would rather pay $50 and have broadband than close to $30 and have dial up. While you can use AOL over broadband, what's the point?
    • People need to be shown the alternative, that's the point.

      When I met my wife, she used AOL because that's all she knew. Without someone to hold your hand, you don't know about Google, Yahoo, Iwon, and other portals.

      When I showed her how DSL and a raw internet connection gave you everything that AOL does, she switched. But it took someone to teach her.

      So how can we teach people? Maybe create some kind of "Non-AOL Internet for Dummies". But why? What is AOL doing that is so bad? They are trying to co
  • by mshultz ( 632780 ) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @09:58AM (#10722580)

    You seen those AOL commercials that began to show up a few weeks ago (during the baseball playoffs and world series)?

    I never understood why AOL thought it would be a good idea to show a roaring mob of millions of customers outside company headquarters with ideas for "how to improve the Internet." I guess these ads show a pretty accurate picture of their recent status, with that many customers leaving...

    • Those commercials really bug me. Do we see Cheverolet running comercials that say "Improve the road"? No.
      AOL is purposefully trying to get people to think that AOL is "the internet". I guess that's better than all those people who think Windows XP is "the internet".
  • Yes of course (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cubicledrone ( 681598 ) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @09:59AM (#10722584)
    Middle management's first and only answer to each new day in business: fire hundreds of people, preferably by entire departments.

    Of course, AOL is still making over $400 million a month in subscriber revenue, but it's always better to have mass layoffs, as every middle manager knows. Fire 'em all. Layoffs by the hundreds. Destroyed careers. Destroyed credit. Savings lost. Years of effort flushed down a shitpipe. Who the fuck cares? The business must maintain their earnings and 20% annual growth.

    Disney fired 4000 people between nine-figure summer movie releases, then destroyed an entire animation studio, firing 250 with unique abilities and experience. Walt Disney was very proud of the fact most of his employees had worked for Disney their entire careers. Now, the company can't wait to fire people every quarter. It's the way of business.

    This isn't capitalism. It's budgeting by layoffs.

    Careers are meaningless. Everyone is a temp. W-4 employment is a farce.
    • Dude, Haven't you heard? Its OK to covet big business and increase massive profits for the rich in America. Just as long as you promise that dudes can't marry one another.

      But seriously. AOL is big and bulky and people are starting to become aware that the need for it is not really all that great. I suppose much of it comes from the fact that the internet has been readily available to the public for long enough that there is a comfort level. AOL was really made to help people that were tech-ignorant
    • Fire 'em all. Layoffs by the hundreds. Destroyed careers. Destroyed credit. Savings lost. Years of effort flushed down a shitpipe.

      Only if your definition of `career' is `being only employable by one company'; your credit rating is based on your job title, not your proven earning capability, and your savings were hidden under your boss's chair rather than in a bank.

      The business must maintain their earnings and 20% annual growth.

      What would happen to those savings if the businesses they are invested in

    • by SansTinfoilHat ( 759207 ) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:50AM (#10723098)
      Can I mod this +1 Bitter?
    • Disney is lost, the only movies that are realy good from "them" are actualy from pixar. After "the incredibles" pixar is not legaly bound to disney (they had a contract of 5 movies, that turned into 6 since disney insisted that toy story 2 was a sequel and did not count as a movie).

      They now are thinking that 3D is the reason pixar is a success, forgeting that those movies are good for their characters, scripts and animation skills. If disney keep doing movies like the last ones they produced, they will sin
    • Re:Yes of course (Score:2, Insightful)

      I've seen companies lay off departments, often with good, well-trained people in and at the same time, be hiring a whole new department completely unproven people to do something else.

      Like errr... how about seeing if some of those good people could be retrained?

      I think it has a lot to do with corporate stockholders. If they see "restructure" they assume the guy in charge is doing the right thing.

  • by jeanluc.bonnafoux ( 611600 ) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @09:59AM (#10722592)
    Here are some news: it seems that AOL is going to cut some jobs in europe (France) too.,39020715 ,39181152,00.htm []
  • No crap... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by fimbulvetr ( 598306 ) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:00AM (#10722598)
    Netzero has been doing some very effective advertising for about a year. AOL did nothing, no changes in service, no advertising, no competitive rates, etc.
    Now, AOL just started advertising, claiming value added services.
    They're still going nowhere, at the end of the day the average consumer cares nothing about services, they want a cheaper price.
    AOLs only alternative that I can see is to purchase netzero, but don't migrate their userbase. Continue to be netzero, and if you loose customers from AOL, BFD. You'll be getting less profit per customer, but at least you'll still the the recurring revenue.

    Don't get me wrong, I'd love to see AOL crash and burn, but they _do_ have a niche.
    • I was under the impression that the "Netscape Internet Service" was AOL's low-cost ISP answer to NetZero.
      • Re:No crap... (Score:2, Informative)

        by fimbulvetr ( 598306 )
        I believe you are correct. I guess I wasn't trying to say they should offer a cheap service.
        The point was that they have the money, they have the staff, they have little worries of monopoly charges (As there are tens of thousands of mom and pop isps, and AOL certainly doesn't undercut them) and they have the ability to swallow their competitors.
        Considering that there are really only two ways to keep your customers (offering better services/pricing or *being their alternative*), and aol has miserably failed
  • It happenned a long time ago but I still have not understood as to why they wanted to milk the 56 K dialup customers so much, that as others were signing up broadband customers - AOL was focussed on getting more 56 K customers at a faster rate than they were losing them. They should have tried harder to retain them even if they were cannibalizing their own 56 K customers by moving them up to broadband. Classic business case of a slow response ...

  • by OffTheLip ( 636691 ) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:01AM (#10722606)
    For many AOL users AOL _is_ the internet. As more become educated they relealize they have been duped by clever marketing. When friends demonstrate broadband technolgies which, remarkably, access the "AOL" internet with freedom and speed they wake up.
    • Yes, exactly. AOL has had its day. But those millions of clueless newbs are starting to understand what the internet is all about, and thus do not need expensive hand holding. But they don't need this 'halfway house' anymore, so they move onto a better service.
    • It certainly doesn't help that AOL is now advertising that you can send in a suggestion to "make the internet better".

      Actually, come to think of it, they could make the internet better: by firewalling AOL users from it.

  • When I had Steve case ( back in college I thought he was a great prof. I don't understand where AOL went wrong?
    • My first thought? Three possibilities:
      1) Just because you can teach, lecture, and relay information, it doesn't mean you can apply it or apply it well.
      2) Smart people can be stupid. In fact, when stupidity is backed by intelligence (thus letting you justify your stupidity or implement it), stupidity is far more destructive than when on its own.
      3) He's only human.
      • Thats why they says...

        Those who can, do.
        Those who can't, teach.

        Steve Case seems to stand in the middle. He can do, and can teach, but his major downfall was his ego. The saying "Keep it simple stupid" comes to mind. AOL tried to do to much. Case created this giant. He made the Internet easier to use in the beginning. Today, it's easy to use without all the crap that AOL provides. Now AOL is nothing more than bloatware that (IMHO) hampers more than helps.
    • This was actually a slight joke on my part. The Steve Case that I cited is actually a professor at Minnesotat State University, Mankato. He is not at all related to the Steve Case who founded and is CEO of AOL. Steve of Mankato though is a truly excellent professor and anyone lucky enough to attend MSU,Mankato should take at least one of his classes. Especially computer Organization. He is a hardware prof and more specifically wireless.
  • by SmurfButcher Bob ( 313810 ) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:08AM (#10722661) Journal
    Compared to past years, my MTA logs for my company have shown a HUGE decline in inbound chain letters, and nested FWDs of FWDs of FWDs of FWDs of FWDs of FWDs of FWDs of FWDs of FWDs of FWDs of FWDs of FWDs of FWDs of FWDs of FWDs of ...
  • Define "customer" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Gothmolly ( 148874 ) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:09AM (#10722668)
    Many AOL "customers" aren't actually customers at all, but rather, people who think AOL=Internet, MS-Word and Windows are the same thing, and that their monitor is 'the computer' while the computer case is 'the hard drive'. AOL isn't losing actual customers, they're losing people who washed up there because they clicked on something when they booted their BestBuy PC for the first time. These people are simply moving to Broadband, or any one of the $6/month ISPs, or DSL, or something else.
    • How are they not customers because they didn't understand how their computers worked? They payed AOL for a product, that makes them customers. That makes them a customer, and if they leave for another provider, they are a lost customer.

    • Re:Define "customer" (Score:5, Interesting)

      by pixelpusher220 ( 529617 ) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:40AM (#10722974)
      Add this to the equation...I've got an AOL acct I've had for probably 10-12+ years. I don't actualy use it much anymore save for the screenname for AIM and chatting. Now that I've gotten around to cancel it, guess what...I'll lose my AIM name if I cancel the service.

      I *know* this used to be allowed but AOL stopped it to prevent the bleeding of even more people who now only want the free AIM service.

      Since I use that name for damn near everything, work/family/friends, it's really too much hassle to switch it to another name at this point so I'm down to the 4.95/month option that keeps the email and chat active but no realy other features (a good thing).

      Any thoughts as to the anti-trust aspects of this? They offer a free service, I want to downgrade to that free service but I'm told that because I started with AOL instead of AIM (which didn't exist back then) I can't just have an AIM account now (with the same name). If I had started with AIM, then signed on to AOL, and then wanted to go back to AIM they *say* I'd be able too. Anyone here done that?

      • Ummm....

        It's their service, they can screw you how they want to. Anti trust? ca-mon....
      • I started with AIM, and when I signed up with AOL, I made very sure that using my AIM name for my account would not prevent me from going back to my no-AOL, freem AIM name status. And when I cancelled my account(a harrowing ordeal), I again received the assurance that I would be able to keep my free AIM name therafter. And lo and behold, I did. But as far as I can tell, you cannot "downgrade" your s/n if you originally started as a paying customer...I'm not sure why, and it seems kind of evil. I do wonder w
      • Oh, I have exactly the experience you were asking for. Back in 7th grade, I signed up for "the internet", quickly learned there was something better (although I've never found an easier warez scene than AOL had in those days*), and so we cancelled our account and switched to some generic dialup service. Aside from the hassle of disconnecting our account, I WAS allowed to transfer my AOL name onto the free AIM!

        (*used to be, when one AOL subscriber forwarded an email file attachment to, say, 4 other AOLia
      • Any thoughts as to the anti-trust aspects of this?

        Yeah: there are none. AOL operates in a highly-competitive industry and can choose to offer whatever services it wants. If you want their services you pay.

  • AOL demographics (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Andy_G_Bannister ( 827985 ) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:09AM (#10722672) Homepage
    Does anybody know of any studies on the demographics of AOL customers? My hunch, from those I know who use it, togeher with AOL advertising (I'm in the UK), would be that it tends to be:

    (a) Net newbies who then keep renewing their service
    (b) Older folks who like a bit of hand-holding

    This is not meant to be derogatory --- I'm simply curious as to who these millions are and why they stick with a service that is slow, cumbersome and expensive.

    • by Jucius Maximus ( 229128 ) <m4encxb2sw@snk[ ] ['mai' in gap]> on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:15AM (#10722738) Journal
      "This is not meant to be derogatory --- I'm simply curious as to who these millions are and why they stick with a service that is slow, cumbersome and expensive."

      For the same reason you keep paying for the services of your current bank, even though the employees are clueless and the fees are stupid. Regardless of how much better things would be with a better service provider, it's too much hassle to switch.

    • Re:AOL demographics (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Lifewish ( 724999 )
      My mum's experience is probably reasonably representative. She's pretty tech-savvy generally, but she found AOL very reliable, stable and easy to use. For some reason, she didn't think the fact that it conflicted with Ethereal was a big enough problem to merit a switch...

      She recently moved away because she wanted to set up a domain name/webhosting thingy via a third party and AOL was being annoying about outgoing mail servers.

      Since then, she's had major problems with email (mails coming in many hours afte
  • mistake? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by theblacksun ( 523754 )
    I wonder if Time-Warner is starting to regret it. []
    • Actually they have been very vocal about how bad of a decision this was.
      • The funny thing is how when they merged, so many businesspeople were surprised that a hip, upcoming, successful company like AOL was willing to merge with a struggling company like Time Warner.

        And at the same time, so many people in IT were stunned that a real company like Time Warner would merge with a third-rate ISP that everyone knew would eventually crash and burn.
  • AOL is a lot like training wheels for many.. Its a starting point , a 'safety net'.. but then they grow up..

  • AOL has launched advertising 9.95 internet access with virus/spam protection, etc.. They're advertising it as just "Netscape" and keeping the name AOL out of it as much as they can. They ran TV ads for it during the election coverage Tusaday night. The ads and the website both try to play on the Netscape name's very grassroots feel. They're kinda playing an Earthlink-like image in all of it. Don't believe it, it's just AOL in disguise.
  • by scottennis ( 225462 ) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:48AM (#10723070) Homepage
    Please let them fire the person who keeps sending me those $%*# disks.
  • Bad Strategies (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Jesus IS the Devil ( 317662 ) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:50AM (#10723096)
    Someone at Aol should read up on some of Clayton Christiansen's (sp?) books regarding disruptive technologies. It appears they've said good riddance to their lower profit customers, all the while ignoring the power users:

    - Those who want control of their internet. Those that don't want to be blocked (by feature and by port) from using third-party mail programs such as Outlook.

    - Those low-profit customers who want broadband. Yes we know 56K yields a much higher profit margin, but by doing that, they've missed the damn boat! It's an eventuality that everyone will want to use broadband. Who wants to be stuck with an overpriced 56k connection?

    - The internet and everything it stands for screams "OPEN". There was a time when Aol was perfect. It provided information and things to do when the internet was barren. No longer. Even MSN has embraced the open internet by porting many of their features to public websites. Yet Aol is still keeping everything closed for members only.

    - Bad strategy. The whole point of Aol doing all of the above is to inflict pain on those who want to leave. In business, pain always work better than vitamins. I know because back in '96 I had an Aol dialup account. It was a bitch to dump it and lose my email address, AIM account, community forums, chat rooms, etc. However, I needed to use Outlook. I saw all those things that were exclusive to Aol becoming widely available for free on the internet. At almost $24/month, it became unbearable after a while, and I dumped it. Never looking back again.

    I have to say, Aol is the one company that, when someone leaves, they will almost never re-join. That tells you something is seriously wrong with their business plan.
  • by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:59AM (#10723206) Homepage Journal
    Of network Hell.

    The first circle was Compuserve. There were a lot of fairly clueful people on Compuserve who just hadn't discovered flat-rate PPP hosting.

    The second circle was AOL. Compuserve users tended to view AOL as a cartoon environment and AOL users as idiots. The more clueful AOL users occasionally moved to Compuserve but only rarely from AOL to PPP dialup hosting.

    The bottom circle of Network Hell, from which there was no redemption, was Prodigy. Prodigy was like the short bus for AOL. If you couldn't handle AOL's cartoony complexity, you could go to Prodigy and quietly play with play-doh with the other Prodigy users. They say Prodigy went out of business, but I believe the service and their users were quietly ejected into another dimesion, where they remain TO THIS VERY DAY! No one's going to organize a search party though.

    These days AOL's mostly just another Internet provider, though it sounds like they also still have some internal services they offer. CompuServe's still around but I believe they have all of about 3 subscribers left. And of course Prodigy's off in the dimension of cluelessness. It's really not to surprising that some AOL users are trying to escape, and I guess the new marketing campaign is an attempt to scare up some more newbies. AOL provides the Internet an invaluable service (Keeping most AOLers out of our hair over here on the seedy west side of the net) so I hope they manage to stay successful.

  • Their value-proposition is weak and slipping, yet they won't do a thing about it. It seems that their current business model is pretty much to hope that not too many customers leave, and just stay put paying $25 a month due to inertia. The AOL-TW merger ranks among the all-time dumbest moves in corporate merger history. They had this grand vision of combining a huge ISP with a content company, so that people would flock to AOL for all of the exclusive Time-Warner content they were offering. I guess nobo
  • Psychological research suggests that "Americans[*] are getting more intelligent".

    Uhh...wait...that doesn't mind.


  • Actually only a few customers actually wanted to leave. The others were required by their terms of service to say "Me too!!! LOL"
  • I remember a while back there was a big deal about the number of customers AOL had been reporting. Seems they weren't taking into account customers who had signed up and then quit the service. So they'd just keep a cumulative tally of all who joined without ever taking people off.

    Does anybody know if this is still happening?

  • by gordguide ( 307383 ) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @02:18PM (#10726170)
    AOL and similar services (Compuserve) were built around a model of access designed to take advantage of a new, emerging technology; ie dial-up internet for us ordinary folk. In the early 90's, they were the cutting edge; they made it easy for the ordinary person to get online, plain and simple. How could this not be popular? And it was.

    Broadband and other providers are now beginning to eat at AOL's US marketshare (lack of new subscribers figures prominently), and for some reason, people (perhaps including the Time-Warner/AOL people) are surprised.

    Where is AOL strong? The USA and the UK. Both have similar (in a broad sense) market realities; in the US it's the slow rollout of broadband due to structural reasons while in the UK it's the network's structure itself (expensive phone charges, often including tolls for local calls, and monopoly providers of broadband, who coincidentally have a financial interest in keeping you on dialup).

    Now, Compuserve and AOL were big competitors in Canada at the beginning; then AOL bought Compuserve and quit offering it to new customers, although technically it still exists, sort of. Roll the clock back to 1995.

    For a mature product category, it's a standard marketing given that a firm can expect to get business in Canada roughly equal to 10% of it's US business. At first, it looked like that with AOL/Compuserve in the US and Canada.

    Then came broadband, and lots of competition. Storefront providers began showing up in my town around then, to the point where I could get access from dozens of dialup ISPs, some of which had as little as a few hundred customers. The local University offered it's network access at home for 10 bucks a month to employees and students.

    As well, Cable and telephone companies began to get in (they lagged the mom-and-pop providers, getting serious towards the end of the decade). The local teleco had already rebuilt province-wide with fibre optic cable, completing it's network in the early 80's.

    I had AOL for about 3 months in 1995 (you know, free with the computer). Then, I switched to broadband (CableModem) when it was introduced in my city. February 1996. A few months later DSL was offered (my local teleco was the first full-scale launch in N America, if you lived in the 2 largest cities 80% of the residential area had it available at launch). See "structural reasons", above.

    Now, I don't live in some techno-heaven; I live in a city of less than 200K in a rural area; draw a circle 100 miles in radius around city hall and you get 260K, not 500. But, no regularory/right-of-way issues. Rollout is quick. Today (2004), if you live within 10 miles of a town of 800 people or more, anywhere in the province, you can get DSL.

    Virtually all Canadian internet users came on after the introduction of broadband, not before. These customers don't know anything about AOL, and signed up with the broadband provider itself.

    So, around 1998, after being firstest on the block, AOL was around number 8 in Canada (subscriber numbers). By 2000 they don't even register in the top 20. AOL/Compuserve never got past 1 million subscribers and have some fraction of that now.

    We know AOL is quite familiar with this history; a lot of it is their history. So, here are the questions they should have asked themselves:
    Why didn't we get our 10%? We should have had around 3 million in Canada. Never even got to 1/3 of that.
    What can we do to combat broadband? Content? Pricing? Added Value? What? What is it our competition offers that's so attractive and how can we offer something that competes?
    Since we had this little micro-model showing us the future, what did we do to use this info to combat market forces in the US, where we still have a leg to stand on?
    What do you mean, "we did nothing"?

    Personally, I think I would have switched to some variation of the @home model and made my service integral with a broadband provider. AOL would still be getting checks and new subscribers. Now that @home has failed and providers know how easy it is to do it themselves, even this model is now doomed.

If I had only known, I would have been a locksmith. -- Albert Einstein