America Online, or AOL for short, is a corporate online service provider and Internet service provider (ISP). AOL is owned by Time Warner, which uses the NYSE stock symbol "TWX". Today, America Online is perhaps best known for being an ISP. AOL's main competitor is Microsoft's MSN. AOL's US website is www.aol.com.
AOL is based in Dulles, Virginia, and it has regional headquarters installations in many cities, including São Paulo, Shanghai, Sydney, Frankfurt, London, Toronto, Tokyo, Paris, and many others.
The AOL logo used until late 2004
AOL got its start as a short-lived venture called Control Video, a company whose product was an online service called Gameline for the Atari 2600 video game console. Subscribers bought a modem from the company for $49.95 and paid a one-time $15 setup fee. Gameline permitted subscribers to temporarily download games and keep track of high scores, at a cost of approximately $1 an hour.
In 1983 the company nearly went bankrupt, and a young marketing veteran named Steve Case ascended to the position of CEO.
Case changed the company's strategy, and in 1985 launched a sort of mega-BBS for Commodore 64 and 128 computers, originally called Quantum Link ("Q-Link" for short). He also changed the name of the company to Quantum Computer Services. In October 1989, Quantum launched its AOL service for Apple II and Macintosh computers, and in February 1991 AOL for DOS was opened. In October 1991, Quantum changed its name to America Online. These changes began a trend of tremendous growth in the number of pay-based BBS services, like Prodigy and CompuServe, with whom AOL was competing.
In the mid-1990s, AOL was among the first companies to give customers not in academia or certain military installations access to the Internet, by allowing any subscriber to the AOL online service to connect to the Internet. At the same time, a small but exploding number of companies began offering access to an Internet connection from any home computer with a modem, without any online service. AOL had recently climbed past one million subscribers. It was very much the most recognizable name in online services, and its subscriber count dwarfed that of any of the newly-born ISPs. In recent years, however, its traditional dial-up service has been declining in subscribers and popularity. In an attempt to combat this, the AOL for Broadband service, which delivers AOL content and chatrooms but no Internet access to users who have an existing high-speed Internet connection, was launched. Previously called "Bring Your Own Access," its purpose is to entice customers to continue paying for AOL services when they decide to upgrade to higher-speed access.
AOL has long maintained a massive marketing push, mailing sign-up diskettes and CD-ROMs to over 100 million households, which fueled a massive growth and helped them dominate the online field. As a reaction of this, in August 2001 the campaign No More AOL CDs was started. Their goal is to collect one million unwanted CDs and give them back via a huge armada of trucks. An America Online spokesperson, who may have been missing the point of the campaign, pledged to send a large amount of AOL CD_ROMs to the campaign when they near the million mark. Others view AOL disks as valuable collectible items due to the vast number of CD-ROM design variations released by the company.
In the late 1990s and into the early 2000s, AOL began purchasing and supporting many popular software projects and companies. Below are some of AOL's purchases:
In 2000, AOL merged with Time Warner. See Time Warner for more information on the merger.
In March 2004, with the merger widely regarded as having been an expensive failure for the new joint company, it was disclosed that Time Warner had held discussions with Microsoft concerning a possible takeover of the ailing AOL division. According to the New York Post, a possible deal would include Microsoft paying cash plus the assumption of debt to acquire AOL, as well as a possible investment by Microsoft in Time Warner Cable. Neither company has publicly confirmed the talks, but the newspaper reports that there are thought to be few obstacles in the way of a Microsoft takeover of AOL. (NY Post, March 19, 2004 (http://www.nypost.com/business/17300.htm)) However, the United States Department of Justice might consider this increasing monopolization. Such articles, however, frequently pop up in the media, with only intermittent veracity.
Notable persons associated with AOL
- AOL US (http://www.aol.com/)
- AOL Canada (http://www.aol.ca/)
- AOL UK (http://www.aol.co.uk/)
- AOL Australia (http://www.aol.com.au/)
- AOL France (http://www.aol.fr/)
- AOL Germany (http://www.aol.de/)
- AOL Brazil (http://www.aol.com.br/)
- AOL Japan (http://www.jp.aol.com/)
- AOL Mexico (http://www.aol.com.mx/)
- AOL Argentina (http://www.aol.com.ar/)
- AOL Puerto Rico (http://www.aol.com.pr/)
- AOL: A History (http://iml.jou.ufl.edu/projects/Fall2000/McAtee/)
- AOL Disk Collection (http://staff.jccc.net/lcline/index.htm)
- The "No More AOL CDs" campaign (http://www.nomoreaolcds.com/)
- early analysis of the Time Warner-AOL merger (http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/business/jan-june00/aol_01-10.html)