I remember first hearing about AOL a long time ago when I was much younger.
I’m sure you all remember the days of dial-up internet when AOL reigned supreme.
The company doesn’t really come up in conversation at all anymore.
So, what happened exactly?
Did they go out of business?
Were they bought out by a much larger and bigger corporation?
Well, right off the bat, let’s establish what AOL does.
AOL is a very significant company which is based in the United States of America.
It’s an American multinational mass media corporation which has had quite the rocky history.
The company was one of the very first to introduce the internet to the masses and some sources cite AOL as having been the most recognized brand on the web.
That may or may not be true any longer today, but it’s hard to overlook the company’s success and impact on the consumer market in its more formidable years.
Believe it or not:
Dial-up was actually considered cutting edge technology at one point in time.
However, I remember not liking dial-up internet very much.
It was noisy and quirky and lag was a real issue.
That’s long behind us now and we’ve got much better technology helping us to connect to the web today.
I also recall that AOL was a very popular email service provider long ago.
Do you remember the famous line?
“You’ve got mail!” would pop up once you were logged in.
Instant messaging was another famous service provided by AOL.
At the time:
I didn’t think AOL would leave or wane so quickly from the consumer market.
It may even surprise you to know that AOL has an online search engine.
It’s not as popular as Google but it’s still there!
AOL is a subsidiary of Verizon Communications that still serves a global audience.
Here are some more amazing facts on AOL that are sure to pique your interest.
AOL was originally founded by Bill von Meister as a venture under the name of Control Video Corporation.
The company sold modems to subscribers for around $65.
Unfortunately it was not meant to be:
The company was short-lived and didn’t last very long at all.
AOL originally used to offer an online service called GameLine for the Atari 2600 video game console.
It cost $1 to download a game to play.
However, there was a catch:
The game would “expire” after around one week.
You could imagine the kind of response that sort of policy would elicit.
Control Video Corporation almost went bankrupt.
In 1985 Quantum Computer Services was founded to take its place.
The remaining scraps of the old company were piled together to form the new one.
An old company needs to rebrand itself to win.
The new company Quantum Computer Services focused on launching a dedicated online service for the Commodore 64 and 128 personal computers.
The service would go on to be called Quantum Link or Q-link for short.
This seemed like a repeat of past patterns for them.
Quantum Computer Services actually did business with Apple.
They launched AppleLink for the Apple II initially, but it was eventually marketed for use on Macintosh computers.
The arrangement didn’t last and the very next year in 1989:
The company parted ways with Apple and changed its name to AOL.
AOL branded itself as a company offering online games.
Some of the features included:
Graphical chat environments, the first online interactive fiction series, and the first fully automated Play by email game are some of the amazing online games that the company offered to an amazed audience.
AOL for DOS was launched and, one year later, America Online for Windows is released.
America Online finally left behind its outdated pay-per-hour system for a flat $19.95 monthly dial-up Internet fee.
This would mark the beginning of the modern Internet era and the beginning of many player’s online gaming careers.
Few may know this:
AOL did a great deal for the consumer educational market.
They were the first company to offer real-time homework help service online, the first online services for parents, the first parental controls, and many other online educational firsts.
In November of 1998:
AOL announced the purchase of Netscape.
This would make AOL the owner of the most dominant browser of the era, Netscape Navigator.
The world really was moving at lightening fast speeds.
At the turn of the century:
America Online and Time Warner announced that they would merge together.
This was a bad partnership as the two companies didn’t share similar cultural values.
Broadband Internet ends up eating most of America Online’s customers and the dotcom bubble left AOL in near ruins.
Welcome to the 21st Century!
Sometimes a company needs to upgrade in order to maintain relevance.
AOL did that in the most awkward way possible:
They decided to acquire the social media site Bebo in 2006 for $850 million US dollars.
Even upgrades can sometimes be awkward.
The company announced that the name of America Online would be retired and would go on to officially be recognized as AOL LLC.
Everyone heard the news and was like, “Okay, we’ve been calling it AOL since the start anyways.”
Then, they drove out for nachos on the beach (well some of them did anyways).
AOL saw it fit to move its corporate headquarters from Virginia to New York City.
This came at a price:
Around 40% of its workforce (around 2,000 people) was liquidated in the process.
The CEO of the company was replaced by Randy Falco as AOL struggled to retake its seat on the world stage.
AOL’s business went for quite a spin the next few years.
First, they hired former Googler Tim Armstrong as chairman and CEO.
Two months later:
Time Warner wanted back in and claimed AOL as its own company.
AOL then went on a shopping spree and bought Patch Media’s network of hyperlocal news cells.
In the mean time:
I was busy learning how to cook a mouth-watering brick oven pie.
In the coming years:
AOL would go on to acquire the video distribution network goviral in 2011.
This was intended to be a way to strengthen AOL’s video offerings in Europe and ultimately North America.
Grab a seat.
The stadium is expected to fill up quickly.
Verizon expressed interest in acquiring AOL for a whopping 4.4 billion US dollars.
That’s billion with a b!
The deal came together and was completed that very year.
This was seen as a strategic move on the part of Verizon to gain a foothold in the changing online industry as its traditional communications business had slowed down.
What are your thoughts?
Do you have any fond or not so fond memories of using AOL in the past?