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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.
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.
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Major problem with one word - "Pioneer"
With all due respect to AOL and the major role it played in making "Online" popular, the sentence "AOL was one of the early pioneers of the internet in the mid-1990s" is absolutely false and distorts history and the company's role in it.
The Internet was around with various services long before the World Wide Web was created on the Internet and started coming on strong in 1993-1994 within larger organizations. Other closed-system services accessible by PC's were also around long before AOL as well. AOL came to the party as competition for the closed-system services, and did a remarkable job which they should be known for. People could now easily get an excellent online service from their living rooms (not the Internet, not the WWW). Then, once the Web was created, more and more people started getting fast Internet-Web access on their desktop computers at work, with a direct connection to the exploding Internet. AOL had nothing to do with the early Internet or the later World Wide Web.
The next step in the evolution came from Earthlink, a true Internet Service Provider (ISP) who made it very easy for any individual with a home computer to jump directly onto the racing freight train of the Internet and the WWW, using a standard phone modem like AOL used. Other ISPs started springing up everywhere, providing direct Internet access in direct competition to AOL's closed online system (all content provided from AOL's computer servers). Many professionals wondered how AOL was going to survive, with the real Internet coming on so strong. AOL had their world of services, and the Internet had it's world of services and sites. AOL was obviously troubled by new and extremely significant competition from the Internet, and ISPs capturing the monthly fees for access, and so finally created a backdoor gateway to the Internet, likely in order to survive. It was obviously a defensive measure which in no way qualifies them to be called a Pioneer, at least not in reference to the Internet.
I was the consultant and tech in people's homes helping them decide on which service to choose and set up. If one wanted to be on the Internet, one chose an ISP to get there directly. One did not choose AOL to get there in a roundabout manner, at least not once it was explained to them. Providing the gateway helped AOL keep many of their existing customers for a long time however, because people were already hooked into the great content AOL provided, and they already had AOL email addresses, and adding "the Internet" to their list of proprietary services was a very good thing. The backdoor approach was somewhat troublesome however, in that I had countless service calls to help clients understand it, and fix it when broken. Then broadband began to become available from the phone and cable companies, and many people dropped AOL at that point because AOL did not have broadband for a while. AOL eventually gave up this approach and joined the Internet community directly.
So, would someone else like to contribute and fix the article? As a start I'd suggest replacing the problematic sentence with perhaps "AOL was one of the primary driving forces in giving massive numbers of individuals an excellent 'Online' experience and service in their homes before the World Wide Web and direct Internet access became available for home personal computers."
I have no sources. I was there on the front lines, loving the WWW from late 1993 on, helping my clients get set up with all these new great technologies. I was a happy AOL customer, and a Compuserve customer before that. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 18.104.22.168 (talk) 01:53, 13 November 2016 (UTC)
"I have no sources. " Well that is a problem. Wikipedia needs sources to develop its articles, and discussions between editors involve the reliability, POV, and overall quality of specific sources. Changing an article to match someone's personal views is going against policy.