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I wish there were a section talking about AOL's introduction of popup ads, the most infamous policy of its history next to refusing to cancel accounts.
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Brief History and Praise
Background: modems connected two computers, not attatched to the internet, using telephone lines (now DSL). Bulletin Board Server BBS was a craze of home computers connecting to a bigger BBS sites having a large scsi disk drive, free software, user chat; often run by government or colleges.
AOL made a chain market of this: buying BBS stations (small buildings with modems connected to PCs) to serve AOL customers. AOL later upgrade to internet connection with Netscape web browser (before Microsoft IE Browser existed). There was some competition by telephone company run ISDN, but limited. (telephone companies have always used small buildings similarly)
But when Cable Internet came out: it was far faster and using government super-funded Cable Modem. All of those BBS stations filled Hayes modems and PCs? Technological paper weights (no easy upgrade path). Subscriptions fell.
But AOL saw this and invested in cable tv companies and had it's own cable access brand as well. The "diving chart" above is wrong: it does not show people subscribed to cable services that AOL owns large shares in.
AOL marketed (in wash dc area) by sending out free floppy disks that installed AOL software. People used these instead of buy floppies, and it was great advertisement. Thanks Steve!
AOL was a boon to PC sales it let many "PC dummies" and experts experience connection with modems, who otherwise would not have had time or not have figured out how. AOL always had nice shared content (software, media, chat, mail, news groups) and was pleasant to see and use.
The only AOL "criticism" was: during one period they limited where one could internet browse but only while connected to AOL. The policy was temporary.
I don't see any coverage of AOL Keywords. I never used AOL, so I don't know exactly what mechanisms / interfaces were involved with this. But some ideas might be nice to cover, or whatever things that anyone knows anything about, and judges worthy for discussion:
- was an AOL keyword just a mundane network name-token (/^[a-zA-Z0-9][a-zA-Z0-9]*$/ i.e., starts with a letter, then has any number of digits and letters) or could there be spaces, dashes, whatever?
- were they context sensitive?
- were there some sort of keywords reserved for system use, like everything beginning with a "9"?
- when did they start to appear in the system? when did they start being used in advertising?
- ...and when did they disappear from advertising etc. I haven't seen an "AOL keyword: wubbawubba" in an ad in at the very least 2007.
- did keywords ever actually disappear from the AOL interface?
- was there a direct mapping to URLs (like, I dunno, a maybe keyword starting with "web=guh.com" could bounce you to "http://guh.com"? Or conversely, was there an "aol:thingy" in the AOL web browser that bounced you back to the system as if you had typed keyword "thingy"?
- Maybe have a screencap of when you hit F5 (or went thru whatever menu choices) and here's the dialog box that comes up, where you feed in that keyword
- How did you go about getting an AOL keyword? Presumably it wasn't an easy, free, and open process.
- were AOL keywords used only to jump to particular "sites", or could they also jump to particular parts of the AOL system (like: would "chat" launch the chat system, as if you had navigated there via normal menus? ditto "help" etc
- How did the appearance of the "Enter keyword here" interface change across different versions of AOL over the years?
- What features were in keyword functionality from the beginning, vs was stuff added over time?