Saturday, December 6, 2008

DUMPING AOL

As most of you already know, about a week or so ago I created a new primary e-mail address and departed AOL for good. Although I still have my free account there, I plan to use it only as an alternate e-mail address in the future. I had been an AOL member since sometime in 1999; I can't recall the exact month I first signed up for that service. That's a long time to spend with one internet service provider, but I was used to AOL -- knew how everything there worked and had no reason to leave until about two years ago. Since then, I had been growing steadily fed up with them.

When I first signed onto AOL, they were about the only game in town, really. It was still the dial-up era back then, and you had MSN, one or two other ISPs, and AOL. They ruled the internet world in those days. But things do change and the internet was changing almost daily. When the new millenium began, in 2000, it would soon usher in a new era of high-speed broadband service. This brought the giants of the telecommunications industry onboard the internet provider train and that was the beginning of the end for AOL. I don't expect them to survive much longer. I predict that they will either be gobbled up by another internet entity, like Google, or they'll simply cease to exist altogether in the next year or two.

I, like millions of others, switched over to broadband. I already had my cable TV service through Comcast and they offered a fair price to add internet service to my account. I've never looked back on that decision with an ounce of regret. As a trucker whose downtime is so limited so often, high-speed internet is a godsend. With it, I don't have to spend what seems like three hours, waiting while ten e-mail pictures download on a slow-ass dial-up connection. I don't get booted offline anymore, while I'm reading my mail, or writing an entry like this. I don't wait eight hours while downloading a critical software update. Dial-up sucks, and I was glad to be done with it. So were millions of others like myself.

But the explosion of broadband service wasn't the best news AOL could have received; in fact, it was the worst news they had ever heard. They weren't in a position at all to compete with telephone and cable companies; AOL always was, in fact, dependent on the phone companies, to provide their services. They had no telecommunications infrastructure of their own at all. It's fair to say that they were doomed from the outset of the broadband expansion. Oh, they hung on desperately, for as long as they could; you've gotta give them an 'A' for effort on that. They tried a gimmick in which they would provide the DSL high-speed service for you, through your local phone company. That one went nowhere, though, because people quickly discovered that their local phone company most often featured rates much cheaper outright than what AOL was charging for it. So, they ordered DSL and cable broadband hookups in droves and discovered that all of the new ISPs had some sort of internet interface portal of their own, which utilized Internet Explorer, which is an integral part of the Windows OS platform; it's built right into it. What's the point in paying AOL for a second browser, when I already have one? People asked themselves that question and answered it by dumping AOL. Also in droves.

I hung on AOL, paying them for only one reason: the extra storage space they gave me, to upload and store the music and pictures I used on my AOL journal. But AOL was headed down, down, down. First came the Great Advertising Debacle, around two years ago. Ads began appearing everywhere on AOL, as they tried to make up for the revenue they'd lost when their former customers began dropping them. Those ads angered many more AOL'ers, especially those who had blogs. I had a blog myself, but I also have the gift of Obstinate Sales Resistance; I could totally ignore the ads, like they weren't even there at all. Others couldn't do what I did, so AOL lost many more customers because of that.

AOL came up with a second browser, almost a copy of Internet Explorer, which was intended to give IE users an interface that looked familiar, if they'd try out AOL. That flopped. Why settle for a copy, when you can just use the real thing? Every effort they made to attract new customers failed miserably. Finally, they caved to the inevitable and began offering the AOL service free, to people who already had broadband providers. This was in hopes that those people would bring in revenue by subscribing to other AOL services. That also flopped. Not many, if any, took them up on it.

Then, this year AOL began downsizing, cutting their costs to the bone. First they eliminated AOL Journals, where I'd had a home for the past five years. I was angered, but evicted anyway. I moved my blog to Blogspot, which is owned by Google. Next to get the axe was AOL's You've Got Pictures, then AOL Hometown went on the chopping block, and finally the FTP space, where all my stuff had been stored. At that point, what was I paying for? Damned if I know. So, I went to the free version. They begged and pleaded with me, stopping just short of finding me a good-looking hooker to bed down with, and paying for her services. I turned a deaf ear to it all and went freebie. Everything I'd been paying for was gone. The provider I'd been with for nine years showed every sign of filing for an impending Chapter Eleven. They looked weaker than the Big Three automakers in Detroit are looking these days.

AOL has had it. Its days are numbered and it will surprise me if it's still around, at least in its present form, by the next election cycle, in 2010. Those of you who are reading this and are still on AOL should think about it carefully. Consider this: broadband, whether cable or DSL, has become so affordable nowadays that almost anyone can get it. If you already have broadband, then get used to Internet Explorer. You'll soon need it. If you don't like your provider's interface, you don't have to use it. Use Google for an IE homepage, like I do. Create a Gmail account. It makes accessing Google easier. Google ain't going anywhere. They'll be around for the foreseeable future and the way their technology is advancing, I don't think it's too much of a stretch to say that Google IS the future.

It was fun while it lasted, AOL, but you just ain't what you used to be anymore.

2 comments:

Norjean said...

I think you did the right thing in opening the Google G-mail account if its possible that AOL might be closed out in the future. Now you don't have to worry about losing any of your saved stuff.

Merry'sthoughtshopesdreamsandshemes said...

I know that you are right! Every single word you said about AOL was/is true. I was so stupid, I am still paying for mine, for the tech support feature, I hung on. But all the smart techs are gone. The remaining ones make me so mad, I scream at my computer (& them if I am on the phone with them) & I write in nasty reviews about how stupid their AOL Tech's are. But do they care? NO! I have had high speed cable for at least 4 years, I just don't use Internet Explorer. I had it at first when I had a local provider. I didn't like it. Friends bragged about AOL & I jumped in. It seemed so "user friendly." And I like so many others quit using my own brain. Well, I got a BIG chuckle out of this particular entry you wrote! You make me laugh like hell. And you are so right. I am going back to IE or use Gmail really soon. And gonna finally dump AOL's paying service! I remembered I do have a brain, I just left it when I hitched up with AOL, and I mean to go back and claim it (my brain!). After all, what did I spend half my life in school for?
It's time to wake up to reality and there are nice people who will help me along the way as I change things. Guess I do have to thank AOL because I do have a lot of great friends I met there. LIKE YOU! Merry