Clarifying AOL Hometown Publishing Tools
I was the programming director charged in 1998 with launching Hometown as AOL's response to GeoCities' success.
When we launched AOL Hometown in October 1998 (originally named "Hometown AOL" then renamed in 1999 to conform with the rest of AOL's branding convention of "AOL (property name)"), we created two publishing tools aimed at different home page-creating audiences.
1) 1-2-3-Publish which was a templated, form-based tool designed to most closely mimic the email experience that most members were familiar with: fill in boxes, select theme, attach picture, you're done! Our desire was to demystify the publishing process -- meaning NO html required -- and focus instead on sharing the content of the page, not the coding required to make it.
2) Easy Designer was our WYSYWIG tool directed at AOL members who wanted to have more creative control over their page. Because the tool was session-based and a rather large download, we included a simple Concentration-type matching game to help pass the time while the download finished. Members could upgrade their 1-2-3-Publish pages by adding new photos and moving things around, or they could simply start from scratch building their pages.
Regardless which tool the members used, all of them were published directly into the AOL Hometown community which included the AOL Hometown nav banner and ad space at the top of all pages.
- America Online Guide to Creating Cool Web Pages, 2nd Edition, 2000
When AOL Hometown shut down, it inconvenienced many people by redirecting many sites to a message that it had shut down. Many people didn't like that it had shut down, and I absolutely HATED it. 188.8.131.52 (talk) 17:15, 30 April 2011 (UTC)
- Had to laugh then cry. Inconvenienced doesn't begin to describe the anguish, pain, suffering, etc. felt by hundreds of thousands of people (if not more) who poured years and years of genealogical research on the Internet. Everyday I run into links back to now-accursed "members.aol.com/..." addresses that are now silent; their information -- no matter how valuable it might have been -- now lost at the bottom of the black hole euphemistically called AOL. The bastards that perpetrated this crime should have been banned to cardboard boxes in downtown LA for the remainder of their miserable lives. It is the primary reason I completely and totally abandoned AOL and resolved never to trust them again. JimScott (talk) 13:22, 7 October 2013 (UTC)
AOL Hometown had two tiers for a long time, 1-2-3 Publish, which was used for extremely rudimentary sites created along very strict guidelines - top, centered title; centered image; three paragraphs/sections; links at the bottom - in addition to EasyDesigner, used for more complex sites created using a drag-and-drop, object-oriented method within which one could incorporate html coding.
The point of this post is to say that I remember a time *before* EasyDesigner. By late 2000, I had a website made with EasyDesigner, and I didn't have a computer until 1997, so there's about a 3 year window. I remember not knowing how to work the earlier design service. It was called something along the lines of Hot Dog Express or Weenie Express, and I still remember what its welcome page looked like. It had a bunch of like mock-trophies on it, with the trophy itself being a rather large pedestal thing at the bottom and a stylized hot dog (sans bun) on top. These trophies were shown in three different colors (probably gold, silver, and bronze), and I think the site had some sort of pay option.
There was a tool called "AOL Publisher" that existed before AOL Hometown and was used to published pages into the members.aol.com space. Joseph is correct that there was a 3rd party tool named "Hot Dog Express" that was a standalone tool alongside the AOL native tools of 1-2-3 Publish and Easy Designer. Thomas (talk) 00:06, 22 September 2012 (UTC)