AOL (formerly a company known as
AOL INC., originally known as
AMERICA ONLINE, and stylized as AOL) is a web portal and online
service provider based in New York . It is a brand marketed by Oath ,
a subsidiary of
Verizon Communications .
AOL was one of the early
pioneers of the
Internet in the mid-1990s, and the most recognized
brand on the web in the U.S. It originally provided a dial-up service
to millions of Americans, as well as providing a web portal , e-mail ,
instant messaging and later a web browser following its purchase of
Netscape . At the height of its popularity, it purchased the media
Time Warner in the largest merger in U.S. history. AOL
rapidly declined thereafter, partly due to the decline of dial-up to
AOL was eventually spun off from
Time Warner in 2009,
with Tim Armstrong appointed the new CEO. Under his leadership, the
company invested in media brands and advertising technologies.
On June 23, 2015,
AOL was acquired by
Verizon Communications for $4.4
billion. In the following months,
AOL also made a deal with
Microsoft and acquired several tech properties, including Millennial
Kanvas to bolster their mobile ad-tech capabilities.
* 1 History
* 1.1 1983–91: Early years
* 1.2 1991–2006:
Time Warner merger
* 1.3 2006–09: Rebranding and decline
* 1.4 2009–15: As a digital media company
* 1.5 2015–present: Division of
* 2 Products and services
* 2.1 Content
* 2.2 Advertising
* 2.3 Membership
* 3 Corporate social responsibility
* 4 Criticism
* 4.1 Community leaders
* 4.2 Billing disputes
* 4.3 Account cancellation
* 4.4 Direct marketing of disks
* 4.5 Software
Terms of Service (TOS)
* 4.9 Search data
* 4.10 User list exposure
* 4.11 AOL\'s Computer Checkup "scareware"
* 4.12 NSA Prism program
* 5 See also
* 6 References
* 7 External links
1983–91: EARLY YEARS
AOL began in 1983, as a short-lived venture called CONTROL VIDEO
CORPORATION (or CVC), founded by
Bill von Meister . Its sole product
was an online service called
GameLine for the
Atari 2600 video game
console , after von Meister's idea of buying music on demand was
Warner Bros. Subscribers bought a modem from the company
for US$ 49.95 and paid a one-time US$15 setup fee.
subscribers to temporarily download games and keep track of high
scores, at a cost of US$1 per game. The telephone disconnected and
the downloaded game would remain in GameLine's Master Module and
playable until the user turned off the console or downloaded another
In January 1983,
Steve Case was hired as a marketing consultant for
Control Video on the recommendation of his brother, investment banker
Dan Case. In May 1983,
Jim Kimsey became a manufacturing consultant
for Control Video, which was near bankruptcy. Kimsey was brought in by
his West Point friend
Frank Caufield , an investor in the company. In
early 1985, von Meister left the company.
On May 24, 1985, QUANTUM COMPUTER SERVICES, an online services
company, was founded by
Jim Kimsey from the remnants of Control Video,
with Kimsey as
Chief Executive Officer , and
Marc Seriff as Chief
Technology Officer . The technical team consisted of
Marc Seriff , Tom
Ralston, Ray Heinrich, Steve Trus, Ken Huntsman, Janet Hunter, Dave
Brown, Craig Dykstra, Doug Coward, and Mike Ficco. In 1987, Case was
promoted again to executive vice-president. Kimsey soon began to groom
Case to take over the role of CEO, which he did when Kimsey retired in
Kimsey changed the company's strategy, and in 1985, launched a
dedicated online service for
Commodore 64 and 128 computers,
Quantum Link ("Q-Link" for short). The Quantum Link
software was based on software licensed from PlayNet, Inc , (founded
in 1983 by Howard Goldberg and Dave Panzl). The service was different
from other online services as it used the computing power of the
Commodore 64 and the
Apple II rather than just a "dumb" terminal. It
passed tokens back and forth and provided a fixed price service
tailored for home users. In May 1988, Quantum and Apple launched
AppleLink Personal Edition for
Apple II and Macintosh computers. In
August 1988, Quantum launched PC Link, a service for
PCs developed in a joint venture with the
Tandy Corporation . After
the company parted ways with Apple in October 1989, Quantum changed
the service's name to America Online. Case was promoted to and sold
AOL as the online service for people unfamiliar with computers, in
CompuServe , which was well established in the technical
From the beginning,
AOL included online games in its mix of products;
many classic and casual games were included in the original PlayNet
software system. In the early years of
AOL the company introduced many
innovative online interactive titles and games, including:
* Graphical chat environments Habitat (1986–1988) and Club Caribe
* The first online interactive fiction series
QuantumLink Serial by
Tracy Reed (1988).
Quantum Space , the first fully automated Play by email game
1991–2006: INTERNET AGE, TIME WARNER MERGER
AOL logo as "America Online", used from 1991 to 2005.
In February 1991,
DOS was launched using a
followed a year later by
AOL for Windows . This coincided with growth
in pay-based online services, like Prodigy ,
CompuServe , and
1991 also saw the introduction of an original Dungeons which was one
of the first Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games to depict the
adventure with graphics instead of text.
During the early 1990s, the average subscription lasted for about 25
months and accounted for $350 in total revenue.
Q-Link and PC Link in late 1994. In September 1993,
AOL added USENET
access to its features. This is commonly referred to as the "Eternal
September ", as USENET's cycle of new users was previously dominated
by smaller numbers of college and university freshmen gaining access
in September and taking a few weeks to acclimate. This also coincided
with a new "carpet bombing " marketing campaign by CMO
Jan Brandt to
distribute as many free trial
AOL trial disks as possible through
nonconventional distribution partners. At one point, 50% of the CDs
produced worldwide had an
AOL quickly surpassed
GEnie , and
by the mid-1990s, it passed Prodigy (which for several years allowed
AOL advertising) and
Over the next several years,
AOL launched services with the National
Education Association , the
American Federation of Teachers ,
_National Geographic _, the
Smithsonian Institution , the Library of
Congress , Pearson , Scholastic , ASCD , NSBA , NCTE, Discovery
Networks , Turner Education Services (
CNN Newsroom ),
NPR , The
Princeton Review ,
Stanley Kaplan , Barron\'s ,
Highlights for Kids ,
the U.S. Department of Education , and many other education providers.
AOL offered the first real-time homework help service (the Teacher
Pager—1990; prior to this,
AOL provided homework help bulletin
boards), the first service by children, for children (Kids Only
Online, 1991), the first online service for parents (the Parents
Information Network, 1991), the first online courses (1988), the first
omnibus service for teachers (the Teachers' Information Network,
1990), the first online exhibit (
Library of Congress
Library of Congress , 1991), the
first parental controls, and many other online education firsts.
America Online 2.0 software for
Microsoft Windows (1994)
AOL charged its users an hourly fee until December 1996, when the
company changed to a flat monthly rate of $19.95. During this time,
AOL connections would be flooded with users trying to get on, and many
canceled their accounts due to constant busy signals . A commercial
Steve Case telling people
AOL was working day and night to
fix the problem was made. Within three years, AOL's user base grew to
10 million people. In 1995
AOL was headquartered at 8619 Westwood
Center Drive in the Tysons Corner CDP in unincorporated Fairfax County
, Virginia, near the Town of Vienna .
AOL was quickly running out of room in October 1996 for its network
at the Fairfax County campus. In 1996,
AOL moved to 22000
AOL Way in
Dulles , unincorporated
Loudoun County, Virginia . The move to Dulles
took place in mid-1996 and provided room for future growth. In a
five-year landmark agreement with the most popular operating system,
AOL was bundled with Windows software.
On March 31, 1997, the short-lived eWorld was purchased by AOL. In
1997, about half of all U.S. homes with
Internet access had it through
AOL. During this time, AOL's content channels, under
Jason Seiken ,
including News, Sports, and Entertainment, experienced their greatest
AOL become the dominant online service internationally with
more than 34 million subscribers. In November 1998,
AOL announced it
Netscape . The deal closed on March 17, 1999.
In January 2000,
Time Warner announced plans to merge,
AOL Time Warner, Inc. The terms of the deal called for AOL
shareholders to own 55% of the new, combined company. The deal closed
on January 11, 2001. The new company was led by executives from AOL,
SBI, and Time Warner.
Gerald Levin , who had served as CEO of Time
Warner, was CEO of the new company.
Steve Case served as Chairman, J.
Michael Kelly (from AOL) was the Chief Financial Officer, Robert W.
Pittman (from AOL) and Dick Parsons (from Time Warner) served as
Co-Chief Operating Officers. In 2002, Jonathan Miller became CEO of
AOL. The following year,
Time Warner dropped the "AOL" from its
In 2004, along with the launch of
AOL 9.0 Optimized,
AOL also made
available the option of personalized greetings which would enable the
user to hear his or her name while accessing basic functions and mail
alerts, or while logging in or out. In 2005,
AOL broadcast the Live 8
concert live over the Internet, and thousands of users downloaded
clips of the concert over the following months. In late 2005, AOL
AOL Safety "> Former
AOL logo, used from 2005 to 2009
On April 3, 2006,
AOL announced it was retiring the full name America
Online; the official name of the service became AOL, and the full name
Time Warner subdivision became
AOL LLC . On June 8, 2006, AOL
offered a new program called
AOL Active Security Monitor, a diagnostic
tool which checked the local PC's security status, and recommended
additional security software from
Download.com . The program
rated the computer on a variety of different areas of security and
general computer health. Two months later,
Virus Shield . This software was developed by
Kaspersky Lab . Active
Virus Shield software was free and did not require an
only an internet email address. The ISP side of
AOL UK was bought by
The Carphone Warehouse in October 2006 to take advantage of their
100,000 LLU customers, making
The Carphone Warehouse the biggest LLU
provider in the UK. Decline in
AOL U.S. subscribers 2Q 2001 –
2Q 2009, with a significant drop from 2Q 2006 onward.
On August 2006,
AOL announced they would give away email accounts and
software previously available only to its paying customers provided
the customer accessed
AOL or AOL.com through a non-AOL-owned access
method (otherwise known as "third party transit", "bring your own
access", or "BYOA"). The move was designed to reduce costs associated
with the "Walled Garden" business model by reducing usage of AOL-owned
access points and shifting members with high-speed internet access
from client-based usage to the more lucrative advertising provider,
AOL.com. The change from paid to free was also designed to slow the
rate of members canceling their accounts and defecting to Microsoft
Yahoo! , or other free email providers. The other free
* AIM (
AOL Instant Messenger )
AOL Video featured professional content and allowed users to
upload videos as well.
AOL Local, comprising its CityGuide, Yellow Pages and Local
Search services to help users find local information like
restaurants, local events, and directory listings.
AOL My eAddress, a custom domain name for email addresses. These
email accounts could be accessed in a manner similar to other
AIM email accounts.
* Xdrive, which was a service offered by AOL, allowed users to back
up their files over the Internet. It was acquired by
AOL on August 3,
2005 and closed on January 12, 2009. It offered a free 5 GB account
(free online file storage ) to anyone with an
AOL screenname. Xdrive
also provided remote backup services and 50 GB of storage for a $9.95
per month fee.
Also that month,
AOL informed its American customers it would be
increasing the price of its dial-up access to US$25.90. The increase
was part of an effort to migrate the service's remaining dial-up users
to broadband, as the increased price was the same price they had been
charging for monthly DSL access. However,
AOL has since started
offering their services for $9.95 a month for unlimited dial-up
On November 16, 2006,
Randy Falco succeeded Jonathan Miller as CEO.
In December 2006,
AOL closed their last remaining call center in the
United States, "taking the America out of America Online" according to
industry pundits. Service centers based in
India and the Philippines
continue to this day to provide customer support and technical
assistance to subscribers. An
AOL Mobile sign at GSMA Barcelona
On September 17, 2007,
AOL announced it was moving one of its
corporate headquarters from
Dulles, Virginia , to
New York City
New York City and
combining its various advertising units into a new subsidiary called
Platform A. This action followed several advertising acquisitions,
Advertising.com , and highlighted the company's new focus
on advertising-driven business models.
AOL management stressed
"significant operations" will remain in Dulles, which included the
company's access services and modem banks.
In October 2007,
AOL announced it would move one of its other
Loudoun County, Virginia , to New York City; it
would continue to operate its Virginia offices. As part of the
impending move to New York and the restructuring of responsibilities
at the Dulles headquarters complex after the Reston move,
Randy Falco announced on October 15, 2007 plans to lay off 2,000
employees worldwide by the end of 2007, beginning "immediately". The
end result was a near 40% layoff across the board at AOL. Most
compensation packages associated with the October 2007 layoffs
included a minimum of 120 days of severance pay, 60 of which were
given in lieu of the 60-day advance notice requirement by provisions
of the 1988 Federal WARN Act .
By November 2007, AOL's customer base had been reduced to 10.1
million subscribers, just narrowly ahead of
Comcast and AT"> The
AOL 'eraser' logo, in use since 2009
On March 12, 2009, Tim Armstrong , formerly with
Google , was named
Chairman and CEO of AOL. Shortly thereafter, on May 28, Time Warner
announced it would spin off
AOL as an independent company once Google
's shares ceased at the end of the fiscal year. On November 23, AOL
unveiled a sneak preview of a new brand identity which has the
wordmark "AOL." superimposed onto canvases created by commissioned
artists. The new identity, designed by
Wolff Olins , was enacted onto
all of AOL's services on December 10, the date
independently for the first time since the
Time Warner merger on the
New York Stock Exchange under the symbol AOL.
On April 6, 2010,
AOL announced plans to shut down or sell Bebo; on
June 16, the property was sold to
Criterion Capital Partners for an
undisclosed amount, believed to be around $10 million. In December,
AIM eliminated access to
AOL chat rooms noting a marked decline of
patronage in recent months.
Under Armstrong's leadership,
AOL began taking steps in a new
business direction, marked by a series of acquisitions. On June 11,
AOL had already announced the acquisition of
Patch Media , a
network of community-specific news and information sites which focuses
on individual towns and communities. On September 28, 2010, at the
TechCrunch Disrupt Conference,
AOL signed an agreement
TechCrunch to further its overall strategy of providing
premier online content. On December 12, 2010,
AOL acquired about.me
, a personal profile and identity platform, four days after that
latter's public launch.
On January 31, 2011,
AOL announced the acquisition of European video
distribution network, goviral. On February 7,
AOL bought _The
Huffington Post _ for $315 million. Shortly after the acquisition was
announced, Huffington Post co-founder
Arianna Huffington replaced AOL
Content Chief David Eun, assuming the role of President and
Editor-in-Chief of the
AOL Huffington Post Media Group. On March 10,
AOL announced it would cut around 900 workers in the wake of the
Huffington Post deal.
On September 14, 2011,
AOL formed a strategic ad selling partnership
with two of its largest competitors, Yahoo and
Microsoft . According
to the new partnership, the three companies would begin selling
inventory on each other's sites. The strategy was designed to help
them compete with
Google and ad networks.
On February 28, 2012,
AOL partnered with
PBS to launch MAKERS, a
digital documentary series focusing on high-achieving women in
male-dominated industries such as war, comedy, space, business,
Hollywood and politics. Subjects for MAKERS episodes have included
Oprah Winfrey ,
Hillary Clinton ,
Sheryl Sandberg ,
Martha Stewart ,
Indra Nooyi ,
Lena Dunham , and
Ellen DeGeneres .
On March 15, 2012,
AOL announced the acquisition of Hipster, a mobile
photo sharing app for an undisclosed amount. On April 9, 2012, AOL
announced a deal to sell 800 patents to
Microsoft for $1.056 billion.
The deal includes a "perpetual" license for
AOL to use these patents.
AOL took several steps to expand its ability to generate
revenue through online video advertising . The company announced it
would offer gross rating point (GRP) guarantee for online video,
mirroring the TV ratings system and guaranteeing audience delivery for
online video advertising campaigns bought across its properties. This
announcement came just days before the
Digital Content NewFront (DCNF)
a two-week event held by AOL,
Yahoo to showcase the participating sites' digital video offerings.
Digital Content NewFront were conducted in advance of the
traditional television upfronts in hopes of diverting more advertising
money into the digital space. On April 24, the company launched the
AOL On network, a single website for its video output.
In February 2013,
AOL reported its fourth quarter revenue of $599.5
million, its first growth in quarterly revenue in 8 years.
In August 2013, Armstrong announced
Patch Media would scale back or
sell hundreds of its local news sites. Not long afterwards, layoffs
began, with up to 500 out of 1,100 positions initially impacted. On
January 15, 2014,
Patch Media was spun off, with majority ownership
being held by Hale Global. By the end of 2014,
AOL controlled 0.74%
of the global advertising market, well behind industry leader Google's
On January 23, 2014,
AOL acquired Gravity, a software startup that
tracked users’ online behavior and tailored ads and content based on
their interests, for $83 million. The deal, which included roughly 40
Gravity employees and their personalization technology, was CEO Tim
Armstrong’s fourth largest deal since taking over the company in
2009. Later that year,
AOL also acquired Vidible, which developed
technology to help websites run video content from other publishers,
and help video publishers sell their content to these websites. The
deal, which was announced December 1, 2014, was reportedly worth
roughly $50 million.
On July 16, 2014,
AOL earned an Emmy nomination for the
series, The Future Starts Here, in the News and Documentary category.
This came days after
AOL earned its first Primetime Emmy Award
nomination for _
Park Bench with Steve Buscemi _ in the Outstanding
Short Form Variety Series category, which later won the award.
Created and hosted by
Tiffany Shlain , the series focused on human's
relationship with technology and featured episodes such as The Future
of Our Species, Why We Love Robots, and A Case for Optimism.
2015–PRESENT: DIVISION OF VERIZON
AOL's Silicon Valley branch office.
On May 12, 2015,
Verizon announced plans to buy
AOL for $50 per share
in a deal valued at $4.4 billion. The transaction was completed on
June 23. Armstrong , who continued to lead the firm following
regulatory approval, called the deal the logical next step for AOL.
"If you look forward five years, you're going to be in a space where
there are going to be massive, global-scale networks, and there's no
better partner for us to go forward with than Verizon." he said. "It's
really not about selling the company today. It's about setting up for
the next five to 10 years."
Analyst David Bank said he thought the deal made sense for Verizon.
The deal will broaden Verizon's advertising sales platforms and
increase its video production ability through websites such as _The
Huffington Post _,
TechCrunch , and
Engadget . However, Craig Moffett
said it was unlikely the deal would make a big difference to Verizon's
AOL had about two million dial-up subscribers at the
time of the buyout. The announcement caused AOL's stock price to rise
17%, while Verizon's stock price dropped slightly.
Shortly before the
Verizon purchase, on April 14, 2015,
ONE by AOL, a digital marketing programmatic platform that unifies
buying channels and audience management platforms to track and
optimize campaigns over multiple screens. Later that year, on
AOL expanded the product with ONE by AOL: Creative,
which is geared towards creative and media agencies to similarly
connect marketing and ad distribution efforts.
On May 8, 2015,
AOL reported its first quarter revenue of $625.1
million, $483.5 million of which came from advertising and related
operations, marking a 7% increase from Q1 2014. Over that year, the
AOL Platforms division saw a 21% increase in revenue, but a drop in
adjusted OIBDA due to increased investments in the company’s video
and programmatic platforms.
On June 29, 2015,
AOL announced a deal with
Microsoft to take over
the majority of its digital advertising business. Under the pact, as
many as 1,200
Microsoft employees involved with the business will be
transferred to AOL, and the company will take over the sale of
display, video, and mobile ads on various
Microsoft platforms in nine
countries, including Brazil, Canada, the United States, and the United
Google Search will be replaced on AOL
properties with Bing —which will display advertising sold by
Microsoft . Both advertising deals are subject to affiliate marketing
revenue sharing . AOL's Headquarters at
770 Broadway in New
On July 22, 2015,
AOL received two News and Documentary Emmy
nominations, one for MAKERS in the Outstanding Historical Programming
category, and the other for True Trans With
Laura Jane Grace , which
documented the story of Laura Jane Grace, a transgender musician best
known as the founder, lead singer, songwriter and guitarist of the
punk rock band
Against Me! , and her decision to come out publicly and
overall transition experience.
On September 3, 2015,
AOL agreed to buy
Millennial Media for US $238
million . On October 23, 2015,
AOL completed the acquisition.
On October 1, 2015, Go90, a free ad-supported mobile video service
aimed at young adult and teen viewers that
Verizon owns and AOL
oversees and operates launched its content publicly after months of
beta testing. The initial launch line-up included content from
Comedy Central , Huffington Post ,
Nerdist News ,
Univision News, Vice
On January 25, 2016,
AOL expanded its ONE platform by introducing ONE
by AOL: Publishers, which combines six previously separate
technologies to offer various publisher capabilities such as
customizing video players, offering premium ad experience to boost
visibility, and generating large video libraries. The announcement
was made in tandem with AOL’s acquisition of AlephD, a Paris-based
startup focused on publisher analytics of ad price tracking based on
AlephD would be a part of the ONE by
AOL: Publishers platform.
On April 20, 2016,
AOL acquired virtual reality studio
RYOT to bring
immersive 360 degree video and VR content to The Huffington Post’s
global audience across desktop, mobile, and apps.
In July 2016,
Verizon Communications announced its intent to purchase
the core internet business of
Verizon tentatively plans to
AOL with Yahoo into a new company called "Oath ".
PRODUCTS AND SERVICES
AOL's products and services are in the following areas: content,
advertising and membership.
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AOL’s family of brands include The Huffington Post, and AOL’s
independent brands (iBrands), and AOL.com. Other
AOL media brands
The Huffington Post
* Style Me Pretty
* Live chat rooms. Some were custom created by members and some were
permanent and made by
AOL and they all covered a wide variety of
AOL's content contributors consists of over 20,000 bloggers,
including politicians, celebrities, academics and policy experts, who
contribute on a wide range of topics making news. The group's video
is collected on its
AOL On site, which offers channels in news,
entertainment, style, tech, business, food, home, travel, health,
autos, parenting, relationships, video games and pets.
AOL produces the MAKERS video series, focused on high-achieving
AOL also hosts and livestreams their BUILD interview series
featuring guests from the worlds of entertainment, tech, fashion, and
In addition to mobile-optimized web experiences,
AOL produces mobile
applications for existing
AOL properties like
AOL On, Autoblog,
Engadget, The Huffington Post,
AOL MAKERS, Moviefone, TechCrunch, AIM,
MapQuest, and products such as AIM, Alto, Pip, and Vivv.
AOL has a global portfolio of media brands and advertising solutions
across mobile, desktop, and TV. Solutions include brand integration
and sponsorships through its in-house branded content arm, Partner
Studio by AOL, as well as data and programmatic offerings through ad
technology stack, ONE by AOL.
AOL acquired a number of businesses and technologies help to form ONE
by AOL. These acquisitions included
AdapTV in 2013 and Convertro,
Precision Demand, and Vidible in 2014.
ONE by AOL is further broken
ONE by AOL for Publishers (formerly Vidible,
AOL On Network
and Be On for Publishers) and
ONE by AOL for Advertisers, each of
which have several sub-platforms.
ONE by AOL for Publishers consists of:
* ONE by AOL: Ad Server
* ONE by AOL: Audience
* ONE by AOL: Creative
* ONE by AOL: Display MP
* ONE by AOL: Mobile
* ONE by AOL: Video
* ONE by AOL: Video Marketplace
ONE by AOL for Advertisers consists of:
* ONE by AOL: Attribution
* ONE by AOL: Audience
* ONE by AOL: Creative
* ONE by AOL: Display
* ONE by AOL: TV
* ONE by AOL: Video
* ONE by AOL: Video Marketplace
AOL offers a range of integrated products and properties including
communication tools, mobile apps and services and subscription
Internet access – According to
AOL quarterly earnings
report May 8, 2015, 2.1 million people still use AOL's dial-up
AOL Mail –
AOL Mail is AOL's proprietary email client. It is
fully integrated with AIM and links to news headlines on
AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) – is AOL's proprietary
instant-messaging tool. It also comprises a video-chat service, AV by
AOL Plans —
AOL Plans offers three online safety and assistance
tools: ID protection, data security and a general online technical
1.7 (macOS) / August 10, 2015
11.0.522 / July 11, 2016
Microsoft Windows XP or later, Mac OS X 10.4 .8 or later
AOL DESKTOP is an internet suite produced by
AOL that integrates a
web browser , a media player and an instant messenger client. Version
10.X was based on
AOL OpenRide , it is an upgrade from such. The
macOS version is based on
AOL Desktop version 10.X was different from previous
AOL browsers and
AOL Desktop versions. Its features are focused on web browsing as well
as email . For instance, one does not have to sign into
AOL in order
to use it as a regular browser. In addition, non-
AOL email accounts
can be accessed through it. There are several predominate buttons:
"MAIL", "IM", and several shortcuts to various Web Pages. The first
two require users to sign in but the shortcuts to web pages can be
used without authentication.
AOL Desktop version 10.X was late marked
as unsupported in favor of supporting the
AOL Desktop 9.X versions.
Version 9.8 was released, replacing the
Internet Explorer components
of the internet browser with CEF (Chromium Embedded Framework) to
give users an improved web browsing experience closer to that of
Version 11 of
AOL Desktop, currently in Beta, is a total rewrite but
maintains a similar user interface to the previous 9.8.X series of
CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
Since spinning off from
Time Warner in 2010,
AOL has made corporate
social responsibility an important part of its mission. In its company
AOL states, "We are in the business of helping people,
period." For the company's corporate social responsibility efforts,
AOL's CEO Tim Armstrong was included in a July 9, 2012
"The Givers," highlighting individuals who have committed their and
their companies' time, money and resources to a diverse range of
Each year on the company's birthday,
AOL employees around the world
are invited to participate in Monster
Help Day, a global community
service day dedicated to strengthening the communities in which AOL
employees live and work. Other corporate social responsibility
initiatives include producing cause-related content for AOL
properties; donating PSA campaigns throughout the
empowering consumers through cause-related contests and initiatives;
implementing a permanent cause module on AOL's homepage, dedicated to
promoting nonprofit organizations.
AOL Charitable Foundation is a private 501c3 foundation funded by AOL
A collection of
AOL CDs sent to a student dormitory in Germany,
In its earlier incarnation as a "walled garden " community and
AOL received criticism for its community policies,
terms of service, and customer service. Prior to 2006,
AOL was known
for its direct mailing of CD-ROMs and 3½" floppy disks containing its
software. The disks were distributed in large numbers; at one point,
half of the CDs manufactured worldwide had
AOL logos on them. The
marketing tactic was criticized for its environmental cost, and AOL
CDs were recognized as PCWorld 's most annoying tech product.
Prior to mid-2005,
AOL used online volunteers called Community
Leaders , or CLs, to monitor chatrooms, message boards, and libraries.
AOL's use of remote volunteers dated back to the establishment of its
Quantum Link service in 1985. Most content maintenance was performed
by partner and internal employees. Community leaders were recruited
for some content design and maintenance, for which they used a
proprietary language and interface called RAINMAN. Other community
leaders hosted chat rooms and provided online help. During the time
AOL customers paid by the hour, chat room hosts were compensated
in free online time for each hour they worked, though of course any
banked hours became worthless once fixed-rate payment was introduced.
Two former community leaders, Brian Williams of Dallas and Kelly
Hallissey of New York filed a class action lawsuit against AOL, citing
violations of U.S. labor laws in its use of community leaders. The
lawsuit was filed in the United States Federal Courthouse, New York
City on May 25, 1999, and was followed shortly by the dismissal of all
community leaders under the age of 18 years, as well as a
reorganization of the community leader program as a whole. The
Department of Labor was also investigating AOL's alleged labor law
violations, but came to no conclusion, closing their investigation in
AOL began drastically reducing the responsibilities and
privileges of its volunteers in 2000. The program was eventually ended
on June 8, 2005. Current Community Leaders at the time were offered 12
months of credit on their accounts in thanks for their service.
Within one decade of the class action lawsuit being filed, the class
had grown to over 6,000 members, comprising the largest class action
lawsuit ever filed against an internet based company. Currently it is
the third largest class ever involved in any lawsuit on a federal
level in the United States, affecting ultimately the employment
eligibility of individuals in an online environment.
In February 2010, a settlement was approved by the Courts in the
class action suit. The settlement included a $15 million USD payment.
This payment was then divided into thirds, the first of which was
attorney and legal fees. Five million was then divided among the
included members of the class which consisted of more than 7,000
individual former Community Leaders. The final five million dollars
was donated to charities hand picked by Hallissey and Williams, and
then approved by the Courts for distribution. One such charity, the
Remote Area Medical Foundation (www.ramusa.org), received payments in
excess of $1.2 million USD for the provision of medical services,
supplies and medication for those in need within the more rural areas
of the United States and beyond.
Prior to the 1999 class action lawsuit, the community leaders were
informed of a change in compensation for duties performed by AOL.
Community leaders would be charged a reduced rate per month for their
accounts, and would no longer be given unlimited access without
invoice. During this live announcement via an online meeting of all
community leaders in a virtual arena, Brian Williams of Dallas led
many community leaders in a virtual "strike" or "sit-in" to protest
the new charges the community leaders were now being asked to pay.
This protest or strike is noted as the first of its kind for an online
environment and was nicknamed for the row of the arena it was held in:
Row 800. Following the protest,
AOL terminated the online working
relationship between itself and several of the Community Leaders
involved. Quickly following the release of these community leaders,
each was reinstated, with the exception of Williams, due to his role
in the protest. During this time, Williams' role on
AOL was that of
Guide XNT (Guide Program), CB Naked (Crystal Ball forum), VnV Naked
(iVillage's Vices and Virtues Forum) and JCommBrian (Jewish Community
AOL has faced a number of lawsuits over claims that it has been slow
to stop billing customers after their accounts have been canceled,
either by the company or the user. In addition,
AOL changed its method
of calculating used minutes in response to a class action lawsuit.
AOL would add 15 seconds to the time a user was connected
to the service and round up to the next whole minute (thus, a person
who used the service for 12 minutes and 46 seconds would be charged
for 14 minutes).
AOL claimed this was to account for sign on/sign off
time, but because this practice was not made known to its customers,
the plaintiffs won (some also pointed out that signing on and off did
not always take 15 seconds, especially when connecting via another
AOL disclosed its connection-time calculation methods to all of
its customers and credited them with extra free hours. In addition,
AOL software would notify the user of exactly how long they were
connected and how many minutes they were being charged.
AOL was sued by the
Ohio Attorney General
Ohio Attorney General in October 2003 for
improper billing practices. The case was settled on June 8, 2005. AOL
agreed to resolve any consumer complaints filed with the
office. In December 2006,
AOL agreed to provide restitution to Florida
consumers to settle the case filed against them by the Florida
Attorney General .
Many customers complained that
AOL personnel ignored their demands to
cancel service and stop billing. In response to approximately 300
consumer complaints, the
New York Attorney General 's office began an
inquiry of AOL's customer service policies. The investigation revealed
that the company had an elaborate scheme for rewarding employees who
purported to retain or "save" subscribers who had called to cancel
Internet service. In many instances, such retention was done
against subscribers' wishes, or without their consent. Under the
scheme, customer service personnel received bonuses worth tens of
thousands of dollars if they could successfully dissuade or "save"
half of the people who called to cancel service. For several years,
AOL had instituted minimum retention or "save" percentages, which
consumer representatives were expected to meet. These bonuses, and the
minimum "save" rates accompanying them, had the effect of employees
not honoring cancellations, or otherwise making cancellation unduly
difficult for consumers.
On August 24, 2005, America Online agreed to pay $1.25 million to the
state of New York and reformed its customer service procedures. Under
AOL would no longer require its customer service
representatives to meet a minimum quota for customer retention in
order to receive a bonus. However the agreement only covered people
in the state of New York.
On June 13, 2006, Vincent Ferrari documented his account cancellation
phone call in a blog post, stating he had switched to broadband years
earlier. In the recorded phone call, the
AOL representative refused to
cancel the account unless the 30-year-old Ferrari explained why AOL
hours were still being recorded on it. Ferrari insisted that AOL
software was not even installed on the computer. When Ferrari demanded
that the account be canceled regardless, the
AOL representative asked
to speak with Ferrari's father, for whom the account had been set up.
The conversation was aired on CNBC. When CNBC reporters tried to have
an account on
AOL cancelled, they were hung up on immediately and it
ultimately took more than 45 minutes to cancel the account.
On July 19, 2006, AOL's entire retention manual was released on the
Internet. On August 3, 2006,
Time Warner announced that the company
would be dissolving AOL's retention centers due to its profits hinging
on $1 billion in cost cuts. The company estimated that it would lose
more than six million subscribers over the following year.
DIRECT MARKETING OF DISKS
A few promotional CD-ROMs distributed in Canada.
Prior to 2006,
AOL was infamous for the unsolicited mass direct mail
of 3½" floppy disks and CD-ROMs containing their software. They were
the most frequent user of this marketing tactic, and received
criticism for the environmental cost of the campaign. According to
_PC World_, in the 1990s "you couldn't open a magazine (_PC World_
included) or your mailbox without an
AOL disk falling out of it".
The mass distribution of these disks was seen as wasteful by the
public and led to protest groups. One such was No More
AOL CDs, a
web-based effort by two IT workers to collect one million disks with
the intent to return the disks to AOL. The website was started in
August 2001, and an estimated 410,176 CDs were collected by August
2007 when the project was shut down.
AOL CDs were recognized as No.1
on PCWorld\'s top ten list of most annoying tech products.
* In 2000,
AOL was served with an $8 billion lawsuit alleging that
AOL 5.0 software caused significant difficulties for users
attempting to use third-party
Internet service providers. The lawsuit
sought damages of up to $1000 for each user that had downloaded the
software cited at the time of the lawsuit.
AOL later agreed to a
settlement of $15 million, without admission of wrongdoing. The AOL
software then was given a feature called
AOL Dialer, or
AOL Connect on
Mac OS X . This feature allowed users to connect to the ISP without
running the full interface. This allowed users to use only the
applications they wish to use, especially if they do not favor the AOL
AOL 9.0 was once identified by
Stopbadware as being _under
investigation_ for installing additional software without disclosure,
and modifying browser preferences, toolbars, and icons. However, as of
the release of
AOL 9.0 VR (Vista Ready) on January 26, 2007, it was no
longer considered badware due to changes
AOL made in the software.
AOL gave clients access to
Usenet in 1993, they hid at least one
newsgroup in standard list view: _alt.aol-sucks_.
AOL did list the
newsgroup in the alternative description view, but changed the
description to "Flames and complaints about America Online". With AOL
Usenet newsgroups, the old, existing user base
started to develop a strong distaste for both
AOL and its clients,
referring to the new state of affairs as
Eternal September .
AOL discontinued access to
Usenet on June 25, 2005. No official
details were provided as to the cause of decommissioning Usenet
access, except providing users the suggestion to access Usenet
services from a third-party,
Google Groups .
AOL then provided
community-based message boards in lieu of Usenet.
TERMS OF SERVICE (TOS)
AOL has a detailed set of guidelines and expectations for users on
their service, known as the
Terms of Service (TOS, also known as
Conditions of Service, or COS in the UK). It is separated into three
different sections: _Member Agreement_, _Community Guidelines_ and
time of registration and digital acceptance is achieved when they
AOL service. During the period when volunteer chat room
hosts and board monitors were used, chat room hosts were given a brief
online training session and test on
Terms of Service violations.
There have been many complaints over rules that govern an
conduct. Some users disagree with the TOS, citing the guidelines are
too strict to follow coupled with the fact the TOS may change without
users being made aware. A considerable cause for this was likely due
to alleged censorship of user-generated content during the earlier
years of growth for AOL.
In early 2005,
AOL stated its intention to implement a certified
email system called Goodmail, which will allow companies to send email
to users with whom they have pre-existing business relationships, with
a visual indication that the email is from a trusted source and
without the risk that the email messages might be blocked or stripped
by spam filters .
This decision drew fire from
MoveOn , which characterized the program
as an "email tax", and the EFF , which characterized it as a shakedown
of non-profits. A website called Dearaol.com was launched, with an
online petition and a blog that garnered hundreds of signatures from
people and organizations expressing their opposition to AOL's use of
Esther Dyson defended the move in a _
New York Times
New York Times _ editorial
saying "I hope Goodmail succeeds, and that it has lots of competition.
I also think it and its competitors will eventually transform into
services that more directly serve the interests of mail recipients.
Instead of the fees going to Goodmail and EON, they will also be
shared with the individual recipients."
Tim Lee of the Technology Liberation Front posted an article that
questioned the EFF's adopting a confrontational posture when dealing
with private companies. Lee's article cited a series of discussions
Declan McCullagh 's Politechbot mailing list on this subject
between the EFF's Danny O'Brien and antispammer Suresh
Ramasubramanian, who has also compared the EFF's tactics in opposing
Goodmail to tactics used by Republican political strategist Karl Rove
Spamassassin developer Justin Mason posted some criticism of the
EFF's and Moveon's "going overboard" in their opposition to the
The dearaol.com campaign lost momentum and disappeared, with the last
post to the now defunct dearaol.com blog—"
AOL starts the shakedown"
being made on May 9, 2006.
Comcast , who also used the service, announced on its website that
Goodmail had ceased operations and as of February 4, 2011 they no
longer used the service.
AOL search data scandal
On August 4, 2006,
AOL released a compressed text file on one of its
websites containing 20 million search keywords for over 650,000 users
over a 3-month period between March 1, 2006 and May 31, intended for
AOL pulled the file from public access by August 7,
but not before its wide distribution on the
Internet by others.
Derivative research, titled _A Picture of Search_ was published by
authors Pass, Chowdhury and Torgeson for The First International
Conference on Scalable Information Systems.
The data were used by websites such as AOLstalker for entertainment
purposes, where users of AOLstalker are encouraged to judge AOL
clients based on the humorousness of personal details revealed by
USER LIST EXPOSURE
In 2003, Jason Smathers, an
AOL employee, was convicted of stealing
America Online's 92 million screen names and selling them to a known
spammer. Smathers pled guilty to conspiracy charges in 2005.
Smathers pled guilty to violations of the US
CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 .
He was sentenced in August 2005 to 15 months in prison; the sentencing
judge also recommended Smathers be forced to pay $84,000 in
restitution, triple the $28,000 that he sold the addresses for.
AOL\'S COMPUTER CHECKUP "SCAREWARE"
On February 27, 2012 a class action lawsuit was filed against
Support.com , Inc. and partner
AOL, Inc. The lawsuit alleged
Support.com and AOL's Computer Checkup "scareware " (which uses
software developed by Support.com) misrepresented that their software
programs would identify and resolve a host of technical problems with
computers, offered to perform a free “scan,” which often found
problems with users' computers. The companies then offered to sell
AOL allegedly charged $4.99 a month and
Support.com $29—to remedy those problems. Both
AOL, Inc. and
Support.com, Inc. settled on May 30, 2013 for $8.5 million. This
included $25.00 to each valid class member and $100,000 each to
Consumer Watchdog and the
Electronic Frontier Foundation . Judge
Corley wrote: “Distributing a portion of the to Consumer Watchdog
will meet the interests of the silent class members because the
organization will use the funds to help protect consumers across the
nation from being subject to the types of fraudulent and misleading
conduct that is alleged here,” and “EFF’s mission includes a
strong consumer protection component, especially in regards to online
AOL continues to market _Computer Checkup_. It is not clear if this
latest _Computer Checkup_ continues to use scareware techniques.
NSA PRISM PROGRAM
Following media reports about PRISM , NSA's massive electronic
surveillance program , in June 2013, several technology companies were
identified as participants, including AOL. According to leaks of said
AOL joined the PRISM program in 2011.
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