The thing with AOL is that it was around *before* the internet and those other ISPs. AOL came around in the age of the BBS.
Everything was dial-up. Mail was tossed and copied around node to node. It was almost all local due to phone charges. What AOL did was make a national BBS, and put in local dial-up access points in most local calling areas. It was bigger than any other BBS of the time. It offered mail to any other AOL user, and mail bridges to most other networks (like compuserv). They had a GUI when everyone else was text based. You can't call them stupid for being the biggest provider in their market. Their problem was that the market changed.
When the internet finally did grow up, AOL was already big. The problem is that the internet changed the online equation. Access became commodity. AOL had to rely on content. (That's why the TW deal). But eventually, the internet had more content too. So AOL is a leftover giant.
I guess we could just expect them to rollover and die because they are outdated. But it's funny how many people don't want to do that, regardless of how outdated they are.