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AOL

AOL LLC (formerly America Online, Inc.) is an American global Internet services and media company operated by Time Warner and was headquartered in Loudoun County, Virginia until late April 2008 when it was moved to new offices at 770 Broadway in New York City. Founded in 1983 as Quantum Computer Services, it has franchised its services to companies in several nations around the world or set up international versions of its services.

AOL is perhaps best known for its online software suite, also called "AOL", that allowed millions of customers around the world to access the world's largest "walled garden" online community and eventually reach out to the internet as a whole. At one time AOL's membership was over 30 million members worldwide, most of whom accessed the AOL service through the AOL software suite.

Description

With regional branches around the world, the former American "goliath among Internet service providers" once had more than 30 million subscribers on several continents. In January 2000, AOL and Time Warner announced plans to merge. The terms of the deal negotiated called for AOL shareholders to own 55% of the new, combined company. The deal closed on 11 January 2001 after receiving regulatory approval from the FTC, the FCC and the European Union.

America Online, Inc., as the company was then called, 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. The total value of AOL stock subsequently went from $226 billion to about $20 billion. Similarly, its customer base has decreased to 10.1 million subscribers as of November 2007, just narrowly ahead of Comcast and AT&T Yahoo!.

AOL is a company in transition, made evident by discussions of buy-outs and joint ventures during a period of dramatic decline in AOL's subscriber base. News reports in late 2005 identified companies such as Yahoo!, Microsoft, and Google as candidates for turning AOL into a joint venture; those plans were apparently abandoned when it was revealed on 20 December 2005 that Google would purchase a 5% share of AOL for $1 billion.

AOL was rated both one of the best and worst Internet suppliers in the UK, according to a poll by BBC Watchdog. On 31 March 1997, the short lived eWorld was purchased by AOL, forcing the 115,000 users to subscribe to AOL. The ISP side of AOL UK was bought by The Carphone Warehouse in October 2006 to take advantage of their 100,000 LLU customers which made The Carphone Warehouse the biggest LLU provider in the UK.

History

AOL release timeline
1989 America Online for Macintosh received as a popular Apple Macintosh BBS
February 1991 AOL for DOS launched
January 1993 AOL 2.0 for the Apple Macintosh released,
AOL 1.0 for Microsoft Windows 3.x launched
June 1994 AOL 1.5 for Microsoft Windows 3.x released
September 1994 AOL 2.0 for Microsoft Windows 3.x released
June 1995 AOL 2.5 for Microsoft Windows 3.x released
June 1995 AOL 3.0 (Win16) for Windows 3.x/Windows 95/Windows NT released
June 1996 AOL 3.0 for Windows 95 released
July 1998 / June 1999 AOL 4.0 (Casablanca) and Refresh 2 released
September 1999 AOL 5.0 (Kilimanjaro) released
June 2000 AOL 5.0 for 9x/NT/2K (Niagara) released
October and December 2000 AOL 6.0 (K2 - Karakorum) and Refresh released
September 2001 AOL 6.0.2 for XP launched
October and December 2001, May and July 2002 AOL 7.0 (Taz) and Refresh 1, Refresh 2, and Refresh 2 Plus released
October 2002 AOL 8.0 (Spacely) released
April 2003 AOL 8.0 Plus (Elroy) launched
August and September 2003 AOL 9.0 Optimized (Bunker Hill / Blue Hawaii) and Refresh released
May 2004 AOL 9.0 Optimized SE/LE (Thailand / Tahiti) released
November 2004, July 2005 AOL 9.0 Security Edition SE/LE (Strauss) and Refresh released
August 2005 to March 2006 AOL Suite Beta launched (cancelled)
September 2006, March 2007 AOL OpenRide (Streamliner) launched
November 2006, April 2007 AOL 9.0 VR and Refresh (Raga) released (AOL 9.0 for Microsoft Windows Vista but also works with Microsoft Windows 98, ME, 2000 and XP)
September 2007 AOL Desktop for Mac Beta released
October 31, 2007 AOL 9.1 (Tarana) released
December 2007 AOL Desktop (aka AOL 10.0) launched
May 2008 AOL Desktop for Mac 1.0 officially launched
September 2008 AOL Desktop 10.1 released

AOL began life 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 rejected by Warner Brothers. 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 $1 per game. The telephone disconnected and the downloaded game would remain in Gameline's Master Module and playable until the user turned off his console or downloaded another game.

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. Von Meister quietly left the company in early 1985. Control Video was reorganized as Quantum Computer Services, Inc. on May 24, 1985, with Kimsey as Chief Executive Officer and Marc Seriff as Chief Technology Officer. Out of 100 employees from Control Video, only 10 remained in the new company. Case himself rose quickly through the ranks; Kimsey promoted him to vice-president of marketing not long after becoming CEO, and later promoted him further to executive vice-president in 1987. Kimsey soon began to groom Case to ascend to the rank of CEO, which he did when Kimsey retired in 1991.

Kimsey changed the company's strategy, and in 1985 launched a dedicated online service for Commodore 64 and 128 computers, originally called Quantum Link ("Q-Link" for short). The Quantum Link software was based on software licensed from PlayNet, Inc. 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 IBM-compatible 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.

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 additional innovative online interactive titles and games, including:

In 2008 Neverwinter Nights was honored (along with Everquest and World of Warcraft) at the 59th Annual Technology & Engineering Emmy Awards for advancing the art form of MMORPG games.

In February 1991 AOL for DOS was launched using a GeoWorks interface followed a year later by AOL for Windows. This coincided with growth in pay-based online services, like Prodigy, CompuServe, and GEnie. AOL discontinued Q-Link and PC Link in the fall of 1994.

Growth

Case positioned AOL as the online service for people unfamiliar with computers, in particular contrast to CompuServe, which had long served the technical community. The PlayNet system that AOL licensed was the first online service to require use of proprietary software, rather than a standard terminal program; as a result it was able to offer a graphical user interface (GUI) instead of command lines, and was well ahead of the competition in emphasizing communication among members as a feature.

In particular was the Chat Room concept from PlayNet, as opposed to the previous paradigm of CB-style channels. Chat Rooms allowed a large group of people with similar interests to convene and hold conversations in real time, including:

  • Private rooms - created by any user. Hold up to 23 people.
  • Conference rooms - created with permission of AOL. Hold up to 48 people and often moderated.
  • Auditoriums - created with permission of AOL. Consisted of a stage and an unlimited number of rows. What happened on the stage was viewable by everybody in the auditorium but what happened within individual rows, of up to 27 people, was viewable only by the people within those rows.

In March 1994, AOL added access to USENET to the features it offered.

AOL quickly surpassed GEnie, and by the mid-1990s, it passed Prodigy (which for several years allowed AOL advertising) and CompuServe.

Originally, AOL charged its users an hourly fee, but in 1996 this changed and a flat rate of $19.99 a month was charged. Within three years, AOL's userbase grew to 10 million people. During this time, AOL connections would be flooded with users trying to get on, and many canceled their accounts due to constant busy signals (this was often joked "AOL" standing for "Always Off-Line").

AOL was quickly running out of room in 1996 for its network at the Vienna, VA campus and moved to Dulles, VA a short distance away. The move to Dulles took place in mid-1996 and provided room for future growth.

AOL was relatively late in providing access to the open Internet. Originally, only some Internet features were accessible through a proprietary interface but eventually it became possible to run other Internet software while logged in through AOL.

Change in focus

Since its merger with Time Warner (owners of the aforementioned Warner Bros.), the value of AOL has dropped significantly from its $240 billion high. It has seen similar losses among its subscription rate, with no quarter in which its net subscriber base actually increased since 2002. AOL has since attempted to reposition itself as a content provider similar to companies such as Yahoo! as opposed to an Internet service provider.

  • 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.
  • AOL eventually announced plans to offer subscribers classic television programs for free with commercials inserted via its new IN2TV service. At the time of launch, AOL made available Warner Bros. Television's vast library of programs, with Welcome Back Kotter as its marquee offering.
  • 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 2006, AOL informed its American customers that it would be increasing the price of its dial-up access to $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 access.
  • On 3 April 2006, AOL announced that it was retiring the full name "America Online"; the official name of the service is now "AOL", and the full name of the TimeWarner subdivision is "AOL, LLC.
  • On 2 August 2006, AOL announced that they would give away e-mail accounts and software previously available only to its paying customers provided the customer accesses 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 Hotmail, Yahoo!, or other free e-mail providers. According to AOL CEO Randy Falco, as of December 2007, the conversion rate of accounts from paid access to free access is over 80%.
  • In December 2006, in order to cut operating costs, AOL decided to cease using U.S.-based call centers to provide customer service. AOL drastically downsized U.S. corporate operations as well. Two weeks before Christmas, thousands of workers were put on notice that their positions were being eliminated altogether, or being replaced with outsourced employees. On 28 January 2007, the last domestic AOL owned and operated call center (based in Oklahoma City) closed its doors, and, during October 2007, the last call center in Canada was also shut down. All customer service calls are now handled by outsourced representatives in Ogden, Utah, India, the Philippines, and Mexico.

Moving of headquarters

On 17 September 2007, AOL announced that it was moving its corporate headquarters from Dulles, Virginia to New York, New York and combining its various advertising units into a new subsidiary called Platform A. This action follows several advertising acquisitions, most notably advertising.com, and highlights the company's new focus on advertising-driven business models. AOL created animated cartoons in 2008 to explain behavioral targeting to its users, showing how a user's past visits to other Web sites may determine the content of advertising they see in the future. Later that year AOL initiated privacy research and extended the animated penguin campaign to the United Kingdom. AOL management stressed that "significant operations" will remain in Dulles, which includes the company's access services and modem banks. They then changed their mind four days later.

By the end of September 2007 as part of preparation for the New York move, AOL completed the closure of its former primary Network Operations Center, Reston Technology Center, which it sold to Sprint Nextel in early 2007. This sale enabled AOL to consolidate its Northern Virginia operations from three sites (Dulles, Manassas, Reston) to two (Dulles and Manassas; personnel primarily went to Dulles, while machines moved to Manassas). AOL took advantage of the move to both reduce its overall hardware inventory and to determine a "right size" for its Network Operations Center staff after consolidating the three sites into two.

As part of the impending move to New York and the restructuring of responsibilities at the Dulles headquarters complex after the Reston move, AOL CEO Randy Falco announced on 15 October 2007 plans to lay off 2000 employees worldwide by the end of 2007, beginning "immediately". That evening, over 750 employees at Dulles alone received notices to attend early morning meetings the next day; those employees were laid off on 16 October 2007, though the employees would remain on the payroll until 14 December 2007 in accordance with the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act. Other employees whose groups were due for phase-out as part of the restructuring were informed on 16 October 2007 that they would be kept on until 14 December 2007 to complete any outstanding tasks, after which they would be laid off. The reduction in force was so large that virtually every conference room within the Dulles complex was reserved for the day as a "Special Purpose Room", where various aspects of the layoff process were conducted for outgoing employees; remaining employees at Dulles were quick to dub the mass layoff "Bloody Tuesday" in online blogs and news reports. An unspecified number of staff at the former Compuserve facility in Columbus, OH were also released, as well as the entire Tucson Quality Analysis shop, a number of AOL employees working at the former Netscape facility in Mountain View, CA, the development team in France, and practically the entire Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada member services call center site. The end result was a near 40% layoff across the board at AOL, including a substantial number of Systems Operations personnel, a significant change from previous layoffs where SysOps employees routinely suffered only minor personnel reductions.. An additional round of layoffs, mostly confined to analysis groups and the staff at AOL Voice Services in Halifax, Nova Scotia, occurred on 11 December and 12 December 2007.

Other business decisions

  • In 2005, AOL (along with Telepictures Productions) launched TMZ.com, one of the leading celebrity news and gossip sources on the web. TMZ.com has become known for its quickness to break celebrity news, often accompanied by exclusive videos and photos.
  • On 6 February 2008, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes announced that Time Warner would split AOL's internet access and advertising businesses into two, with the possibility of later selling the internet access division.

Controversies

Community leaders

Prior to mid 2005, AOL used volunteers called Community Leaders, or CLs, to monitor chatrooms, message boards, and libraries. Some community leaders were recruited for content design and maintenance using a proprietary language and interface called RAINMAN, although most content maintenance was performed by partner and internal employees.

In 1999, a class action lawsuit was filed against AOL citing violations of U.S. labor laws in its usage of CLs. The Department of Labor investigated but came to no conclusions, closing their investigation in 2001. In light of these events, AOL began drastically reducing the responsibilities and privileges of its volunteers in 2000. The program was eventually ended on 8 June 2005. Current Community Leaders at the time were offered 12 months of credit on their accounts.

AOL's use of remote volunteers dated back to the establishment of its Quantum Link service in 1985.

Billing disputes

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. Previously, AOL would add fifteen 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 11 minutes and 46 seconds would be charged for 13 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 ISP). AOL disclosed its connection-time calculation methods to all of its customers and credited them with extra free hours. In addition, the 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 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 Ohio AG's office. In December 2006, AOL agreed to provide restitution to Florida consumers to settle the case filed against them by the Florida Attorney General. Their billing practices violated Florida's Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.

Account cancellation

In response to approximately 300 consumer complaints, then-New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer’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 their Internet service. In many instances, such retention was done against subscribers’ wishes, or without their consent. Under the scheme, consumer 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.

Many customers complained that AOL personnel ignored their demands to cancel service and stop billing. On 24 August 2005, America Online agreed to pay $1.25 million to the state of New York and reformed its customer service procedures. Under the agreement, AOL will no longer require its customer service representatives to meet a minimum quota for customer retention in order to receive a bonus.

On 13 June 2006, a man named 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 19 July 2006, AOL's entire retention manual was released on the Internet. (7MB PDF).

On 3 August 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.

Software

  • In 2000, AOL was served with an $8 billion lawsuit alleging that its (now outdated) 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. Now, the AOL software has a feature called AOL Dialer, or AOL Connect on Mac OS X. This feature allows users to connect to the ISP without running the full interface. This allows users to use only the applications they wish to use, especially if they do not favor the AOL Browser.
  • 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 26 January 2007, it is no longer considered badware due to changes AOL made in the software.

Usenet newsgroups

When 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 clients swarming 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.

Later, AOL discontinued providing access to Usenet on 25 June 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. Currently, AOL provides 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 Privacy Policy. All three agreements are presented to users at time of registration and digital acceptance is achieved when they access the AOL service.

There have been many complaints over rules that govern an AOL user's 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.

Certified e-mail

In early 2005, AOL stated its intention to implement certified e-mail, 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 has drawn fire from MoveOn, which characterizes the program as an "e-mail tax", and the EFF, which characterizes 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 goodmail.

Esther Dyson defended the move in a 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.".

Other members of the antispam and blogging community are broadly critical of moveon.org and the EFF's attempts to characterize this as a "shakedown".

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 on 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 scheme.

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 9 May 2006.

Search data

On 4 August 2006, AOL released a compressed text file on one of its websites containing twenty million search keywords for over 650,000 users over a 3-month period between 1 March 2006 and 31 May, intended for research purposes. AOL pulled the file from public access by 7 August, 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 are being used by Web sites 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 search behavior.

Company purchases

Company sales

AOL (Time Warner) has sold a number of its sub-companies in Europe. AOL Europe has six million users, but its subscription base had been steadily declining. In 2005, 287,000 European AOL online users migrated to other service providers. In September 2006, AOL Germany's ISP business (AOL Deutschland GmbH & Co. KG) was sold for $863m (€675m) to Telecom Italia. AOL's German web portal (AOL Deutschland), however, is now operated by then newly founded AOL Deutschland Medien GmbH which still is a subsidiary of Time Warner. Today, AOL Deutschland offers virtually all free services of AOL.com (see below) in German versions as well as some own products, such as an AOL VISA card. (German)

In October 2006, AOL UK's ISP business was sold for $688m (£370m) to Carphone Warehouse.

Notable people associated with AOL

Online security services

AOL's recent software incarnations have provided different combinations of security features, usually involving McAfee's VirusScan and Firewall software.

Timeline

  • In late 2005, AOL released AOL Safety & Security Center, a bundle of McAfee anti-virus, CA anti-spyware, and proprietary firewall and phishing protection software. The software was offered free of charge, but only to users with an AOL e-mail address or an AOL My eAddress running Microsoft Windows XP or 2000.
  • On 7 August 2006 , AOL released AOL Active Virus Shield. This software was developed by Kaspersky Lab. Active Virus Shield software was free and did not require an AOL account, only an internet e-mail address.
  • On 8 June 2006 , AOL offered a new program called AOL Active Security Monitor. This is a diagnostic tool to check the local PC's security status, and recommends additional security software from AOL or Download.com. The program rates the computer on a variety of different areas of security and general computer health. The current version only supports Windows 2000/XP with Internet Explorer 5.0 or greater.
  • On 18 July 2007 , AOL released "McAfee VirusScan Plus: Special Edition from AOL" (VSP) to its free members, and a premium version, "McAfee Internet Security Suite: Special Edition from AOL" (MIS), to its paid subscribers. These replace both the "AOL Safety and Security Center" and the now-defunct "AOL Active Virus Shield". MIS contains all components of VSP plus includes tools like automatic back-up.

Free services

On Wednesday 2 August 2006 AOL announced a plan to offer "many" of its services for free, with or without an AOL Internet connection.

  • Among the announced plans are free email services.
  • Chat rooms are included with the free service, but users are required to verify the age of an account created under the free plan using a credit card. AOL charges $1 to the credit card provided and then immediately refunds the charge.
  • AOL Video features professional content and allows users to upload videos as well. The original user-orientated video service was called UnCut Video, but was abandoned.
  • AOL Local comprises their CityGuide, Yellow Pages, and Local Search to help users find local information like restaurants, local events, and directory listings.
  • AOL currently provides free usage of a custom domain name, which it calls an AOL My eAddress. This allows users to create an e-mail address like 'example@whateveryouwant.com', and allows up to 100 other addresses to be created. These e-mail accounts can be accessed in a manner similar to other AOL and AIM e-mail accounts.
  • Xdrive is a service offered by AOL which allows users to back up their files over the Internet. The service provides a free 5 GB account (free online storage) to anyone who has, or is willing to sign up for a free AOL screenname. Xdrive also offers remote backup services and 50GB of storage for a $9.95 per month fee.

Other developments

  • In late 2006, AOL began offering free and unlimited digital picture storage for both free and paid accounts. Original resolutions are preserved, and an ActiveX control provides a drag-n-drop interface within web browsers, permitting users to drop an entire folder of photos into the web page to upload them.
  • On 4 October 2006, AOL released a free Internet suite called OpenRide, which combines a web browser, instant messenger, email client and media player.
  • On 16 February 2007, it was announced that AOL now supports OpenID.
  • On 13 March 2008, AOL purchased the popular networking site Bebo for $850m (£417m).
  • On 25 July 2008 AOL announced it was shedding XDrive, AOL Pictures, and BlueString to save on costs and focus on its its core advertising business. XDrive may be put up for sale.
  • In 2008, AOL announced to AIM Mail users they would be charged for the before-free service they were provided with.

Movie studios partnership

On Friday, 25 August 2006, AOL announced that it had signed a deal with several major movie studios to open an online video store allowing users to "download to own" full length movies and television shows. The deal was signed with News Corporation's 20th Century Fox, Sony Corp.'s Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, NBC Universal's Universal Pictures, and corporate sibling Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group

See also

References

External links

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