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The AOL Roller Coaster

CowboyNeal posted more than 7 years ago | from the ups-and-downs dept.

95

eldavojohn writes "There's a lengthy article at Information Week about AOL's history. A lot of us are familiar with AOL's history but few of us realize that it sits at a crossroads today where it could potentially find its way back into consumer's pockets — something it's tried to do before in a hit-or-miss fashion. From the conclusion of the article, one analyst states: 'Ironically, although you'd think AOL should dump its family mentality in light of its competitors like Yahoo, the key to AOL future branding success vs. Yahoo could be to actually capitalize on its family friendliness alongside targeting the tech-savvy community currently owned by Apple.' AOL has been met with many problems as of late, but can they pull themselves out of the hole this time?"

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95 comments

-1 Flamebait: The solution to pulling out (0, Troll)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 7 years ago | (#16347495)

First, they could stop thinking of Mac users as 'tech savvy'.

Re:-1 Flamebait: The solution to pulling out (5, Funny)

kfg (145172) | more than 7 years ago | (#16347749)

To the non tech savvy, tech savvy now means "buys gadgets."

The actual tech savvy, of course, are the people who pick the broken and discarded gadgets from the "tech savvy"'s trash and make new and interesting gadgets from their bits and pieces.

God I love early adopters.

KFG

Re:-1 Flamebait: The solution to pulling out (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16349379)

Hell, yes, can't wait for the next wave of PC upgrades to hit the dumpsters! Upgrade to Vista, Windows users! Upgrade to Vista!

'Apple owns the tech-savvy', my ass. Did you build it yourself? Then fuck you.

Ill just keep this up here by the flamebait (1)

JensenDied (1009293) | more than 7 years ago | (#16348421)

AOL: an ISP for people who don't know any better

Don't they mean... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16355601)

Lollercoaster? :)

Bill Frist post (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16347515)

1 0w3nz j00!!!11!!oneone!one

Dear AOL: (3, Insightful)

Jason Scott (18815) | more than 7 years ago | (#16347525)

...die in a fire. A nasty, painful fire.

The article kind of glosses over that time that AOL released its users onto the Internet at large with absolutely no barriers or training, even an indication they were really not on AOL.

One of my funniest memories of that time was when someone had a webpage up criticizing AOL, and an AOL admin/cop/whatever contacted him and seriously explained that the webmaster was violating AOL's terms of service, and to take the webpage down immediately or have his AOL account terminated.

People looking for examples of how a corporate entity will gang-bang a shared service at the first opportunity need look no further than AOL and its toxic bus-load drop-offs onto the net.

Next time, mention that in a "History".

Re:Dear AOL: (1)

hkgroove (791170) | more than 7 years ago | (#16347631)

And all that Family Friendliness stops when you try to cancel your account. I'm not just talking about that one guy who recorded his calls either. When I canceled 5 years ago it took me two hours and three seperate calls.

Re:Dear AOL: (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16347787)

And all that Family Friendliness stops when you try to cancel your account. I'm not just talking about that one guy who recorded his calls either. When I canceled 5 years ago it took me two hours and three seperate calls.

The easiest way to cancel an AOL account, at least when they were offering an 0800 number in the UK, was just to leave it permanently connected. Via a cell phone (0800 calls were free on Orange at the time). 5500 cell phone minutes per month charged to the account got things cut off very fast.

I suppose these days one effective way would be to offer a bunch of copyrighted extreme fetish beastiality porn on the webspace and send in a DMCA takdown notice. If that's not extreme enough for them use photoshop to tatoo an AOL logo onto every sexual organ - instant account closure.

Re:Dear AOL: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16348173)

Do you have anything online describing this case? I'd love to see it. (No, really! I would! Honestly!)

A good way back (2, Insightful)

NineNine (235196) | more than 7 years ago | (#16348259)

Well, an excellent way for them to make a comeback is if they did a complete overhaul and focused on providing a heavily filtered version of the Internet in all forms, in an attempt to make it as safe from crime, viruses, and nasty content as possible. With the total and complete mess that the Net is in these days (flooded with spam, crime, and malware), I would think that at this point in time, some people would be falling all over themselves to use a service like that. I would even use a service like that for my business!

Re:Dear AOL: (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 7 years ago | (#16348337)

Great delineating moments in history:

1) 1963 - JFK assasinated - U.S. enters steep decline. Has yet to recover.
2) 1990s - AOLers gain access to internet - Internet enters steep decline. Has yet to recover. It was that noticable.

After that not much happened.

Re:Dear AOL: (1)

fatphil (181876) | more than 7 years ago | (#16349419)

In particular, September 1993 - the september that never ended.

Fortunately googlegroups has taken over the torch for the attempt to fill usenet with idiots since AOL pulled out.

FatPhil

Re:Dear AOL: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16350197)

Sounds like what you really hate are average non-geek technical people. I'm sorry they destroyed your Internet. Are immigrants in whatever country you're in ruining that for you too? Dirty immigrants, right? We were here first.

AOL didn't ruin anything. The reality of how people behave is not their fault, it would have happened with Prodigy, Compuserve, GEnie, Mindspring/Earthlink.

As for your anecdote, provide a source or shut the fuck up.

0wned, no doubt about that (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16347537)

tech-savvy community currently owned by Apple

Truly, owned is good word to describe it. Apple is for brainwashed suckers who have more money than sense. Only a halfwit with no technical skills would exchange overpriced software (Microsoft) for overpriced hardware (Apple) and consider himself a tech-savvy person.

Run GNU/Linux [debian.org] on cheap/commodity hardware and you will not need any whoring analyst to tell you that you're a tech-savvy person.

Re:0wned, no doubt about that (1)

soundvessel (899042) | more than 7 years ago | (#16348543)

Run GNU/Linux on cheap/commodity hardware and you will not need any whoring analyst to tell you that you're a tech-savvy person.

Riiight. Because tech-savvy people only work on the cheapest hardware they can find with open-source operating systems. Everyone else is just playing pretend.

Re:0wned, no doubt about that (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16348653)

You are confusing cheap/commodity hardware with poor quality hardware. This is obviously not the case. Commodity hardware is cheap becase it's industry standard and there are multiple verdors supplying it, hence, competion that drives the price down and keeps verdors honest.

Anyway, you are welcome to contribute to Steve Jobs' $850,000,000 Thank You Suckers [yahoo.com] fund.

Re:0wned, no doubt about that (1)

joto (134244) | more than 7 years ago | (#16348791)

Riiight. Because tech-savvy people only work on the cheapest hardware they can find with open-source operating systems. Everyone else is just playing pretend.

Well, uhm, yeah. More or less. Being tech-savvy obviously means that you understand the tradeoffs involved in price/quality/performance for computer components. Since very little of it is of any quality (and if it is, it is purely by luck, and the manufacturer doesn't even realize he can charge more for it), and performance is getting better in two weeks anyway, you can just as well buy something cheap. And there should be no doubt that linux, with its programmer-friendly interface, and wide adaptility to everything from cell-phones to supercomputers, makes a popular OS among the tech-savvy crowd.

But go ahead, buy expensive gamer 3d-cards to get 0.2% higher framerate in tetris, put stickers with flames on the side of your cabinet and see if it boots any faster, go for the exclusive "mac" experience where you pay to use the same OS and computer as gay people do, or choose windows because you love your computer failing.

Re:0wned, no doubt about that (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16349113)

I can't even believe I'm responding to this.

The same computer that gay people use? You're an obese twelve year old in Nebraska, I hope. I hope.

When you have actual money someday, and you have the choice between fiddling for days getting your kernel recompiled to work with some $12 video card, or having sex, you'll probably opt for the Mac, too. That's what I did, anyway.

Re:0wned, no doubt about that (1)

joto (134244) | more than 7 years ago | (#16349667)

The same computer that gay people use? You're an obese twelve year old in Nebraska, I hope. I hope.

As a matter of fact, I don't know anybody who uses a mac that aren't gay, or could be mistaken for one (such as a metrosexual, or anyone that puts appearance before functionality). As for your guess of who I am, you were wrong on all counts, I'm a reasonably fit 32 year old security guard from Norway (and I've got an education as a computer scientist).

When you have actual money someday, and you have the choice between fiddling for days getting your kernel recompiled to work with some $12 video card, or having sex, you'll probably opt for the Mac, too. That's what I did, anyway.

True enough, my work pays a lot less than what I got when I programmed for a living, but I get by. My $12 video card got autodetected by ubuntu, and runs just fine with accelerated 3d and the nvidia driver. (I tried windows once, and I had to download some random patches such as DirectX-somelargenumber just to be able to use the drivers on the included disk, which took a long time, and then I had to reboot three times before my drivers were installed, and about 270 reboots and a week later, I had a working windows installation...).

In ubuntu, I had none of this hassle, and everything runs fine. I don't recompile my kernel, because my distro provides perfectly adequate kernels for me, but if I had to, it would probably take me an hour or two of fiddling, not days. I fail to see why this should have anything to do with sex. Do you fuck your macintosh? I prefer women... computers and sex don't mix very well!

Re:0wned, no doubt about that (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16349849)

As a matter of fact, I don't know anybody who uses a mac that aren't gay, or could be mistaken for one

Well that's funny. I don't know anyone who uses Linux who isn't a morbidly obese bearded fellow who stays inside except for conventions, or a scrawny dork with bad hair and no social skills. If any of them HAVE a girlfriend, she's extremely fat and heavily into Star Wars.

I wish I were kidding. I wish I were trolling. But I'm not.

Re:0wned, no doubt about that (1)

joto (134244) | more than 7 years ago | (#16350089)

I don't know anyone who uses Linux who isn't a morbidly obese bearded fellow who stays inside except for conventions, or a scrawny dork with bad hair and no social skills. If any of them HAVE a girlfriend, she's extremely fat and heavily into Star Wars.

I agree, I don't know many "normal" linux-users. While I think you exaggerate a bit (whereas my gay-mac-stereotype was not exaggerated), you certainly have a point. Linux isn't exactly mainstream. The only reason there are more than one linux user, is because nerds, geeks, dorks, and loosers have slowly taken over the mainstream. Today, you are considered socially inept if you don't play WoW for at least 45 hours each day!

By the way, I get to wonder why you are here on this site ;-)

Re:0wned, no doubt about that (1)

Kijori (897770) | more than 7 years ago | (#16353925)

go for the exclusive "mac" experience where you pay to use the same OS and computer as gay people do

Do gay people use Macs more than straight people? Are all design professionals gay? If you've got any hard proof, show it, otherwise I won't believe it. But that's not the point.

What's wrong with using the same type of computer as gay people? Why would that be a bad point of using a Mac? This is an example of the most damaging form of homophobia. You probably don't think of yourself as homophobic, you'll probably reply to this comment by saying you have lots of gay friends and they're great people. But everytime you say that 'Macs are for gays', or call something 'gay' when you mean bad, you're helping to create a climate where people think of homosexuality as an affliction rather than just a different way of living.

In this day, when we finally have started to conquer racism and sexism in the hearts and minds of our children, we are leaving them a legacy of homophobia that is equally damaging, both to civil rights and to the children themselves. It may seem trivial now, but the cumulative effect of thousands of casual comments is more damaging than anything one group could do. So just think before you say something like that; I'm sure you didn't mean any harm.

Re:0wned, no doubt about that (1)

joto (134244) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354985)

As for your questions: Yes, gay people use macs more than straight people, just look at Steve Jobs! No, not all design professionals are gay, some design professionals use Windows. The wrong thing about using the same type of computer as gay people is that you get a slick looking, but expensive and useless slow-puter with only one mouse-button.

As for your other comments: Hey, even if you actually feel offended, and are not just faking it out of misplaced political correctness, don't be so gay about it! OK?

Re:0wned, no doubt about that (1)

Kijori (897770) | more than 7 years ago | (#16355767)

As for your other comments: Hey, even if you actually feel offended, and are not just faking it out of misplaced political correctness, don't be so gay about it! OK?

I believe that homophobia is one of the most pressing problems among young people today, so no, not just misplaced political correctness.
That said, that was actually very funny...

Re:0wned, no doubt about that (2, Insightful)

bealzabobs_youruncle (971430) | more than 7 years ago | (#16348925)

When you graduate from college any move out of the dorms you may find that your time actually has some value, at which point you may see why OS X is the better choice for desktop *nix. But until then, enjoy your delusions.

As a resident of the Rest Of The World... (3, Funny)

OnyxIR (456300) | more than 7 years ago | (#16347539)

What the hell is AOL?

No really...

Re:As a resident of the Rest Of The World... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16347583)

>>As a resident of the Rest Of The World...
>>What the hell is AOL?

http://www.aol.co.uk/ [aol.co.uk]

Re:As a resident of the Rest Of The World... (2, Insightful)

OnyxIR (456300) | more than 7 years ago | (#16347619)

So basically its like a crappy MSN?

Re:As a resident of the Rest Of The World... (1)

Secrity (742221) | more than 7 years ago | (#16347843)

... that used to require that you install software that essentially took over your computer and was impossible to completely remove.

Re:As a resident of the Rest Of The World... (3, Funny)

alzoron (210577) | more than 7 years ago | (#16347911)

So yeah, it was basically just like MSN.

Re:As a resident of the Rest Of The World... (1)

LilBlackDemon (604917) | more than 7 years ago | (#16348551)

Still does, sad to say. My mom, over my arguments, still uses AOL. And on a recent software checkup, I noticed a computer that once was able to run a game like No One Lives Forever 2 at full resolution & effects now is burdened by 5 (!) AOL processes when the software itself isn't even going. Honestly, AOL needs to understand the concept of "bloatware," and quickly. The service itself isn't so bad for a dialup service, it's just that their software is so overdone it's quite frankly shit.

Re:As a resident of the Rest Of The World... (1)

mattpointblank (936343) | more than 7 years ago | (#16351783)

Honestly, AOL needs to understand the concept of "bloatware," and quickly.


Sounds like they understand it pretty damn well, really..

Re:As a resident of the Rest Of The World... (1)

HappyDrgn (142428) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354031)

You don't have to install their crappy software anymore? That's odd. I was sure they would never get away from that big nasty ad laden application.

Re:As a resident of the Rest Of The World... (1)

Secrity (742221) | more than 7 years ago | (#16354145)

If you have broadband you can use AOL without their software (my question is: Why?).

http://cyberiapc.com/forums/lofiversion/index.php? t3323.html [cyberiapc.com]

Re:As a resident of the Rest Of The World... (1)

Moochman (54872) | more than 7 years ago | (#16361595)

Easy reason, probably the reason most people hang onto AOL: they don't want to give up their e-mail address.

Re:As a resident of the Rest Of The World... (1)

dapsychous (1009353) | more than 7 years ago | (#16348039)

OK, take the worst thing you can think of. Now, make it kill puppies and rape goats. Then, dip it in acid, and finally, give it your credit card number.


That's AOL.

Suddenly it matters (1)

Reverse Gear (891207) | more than 7 years ago | (#16351623)

I have the same problem, I really don't understand what AOL is.
Until lately I really didn't care, but I now have a good friend in the USA who thinks highly of AOL, but so far I have not been able to really understand what AOL is.
Living in Denmark I don't think there is such a thing as AOL in our part of the world, I can get my internet connection through a number of ISP's who offers little else but the ISP and what you usually get along with that (email adresses, a little room for a homepage maybe and a "startpage" of some kind, maybe even some simple pieces of useles software), but somehow AOL seems to be something diffrent than an ISP, or at least providing the internet connection is only a little part of what they do.
I am not aware of AOL providing any content on the internet that I have used so far, so that can't be what they offer (or is it?).

AOL seems to provide some kind of software that my friend really likes, it should be very user friendly according to her.
She is skilled at many things using a computer, so I do think that what she says has a point.
This article did provide some more information on what AOL is, but still I am a little confused, so I would be grateful if anyone could point me to a place where I can learn more or explain to me what it is AOL provides.

Re:Suddenly it matters (1)

markhb (11721) | more than 7 years ago | (#16352501)

Start here [aol.com] .

Before the Internet became interesting to the general public (i.e., before it had pictures), the USA had several "online services", including AOL, Compuserve [compuserve.com] , now also owned by AOL, and Prodigy. These used proprietary, graphical client software to enable users to reach central servers via dial-up; the users paid $x per month for a certain number of available minutes of usage. In some ways, they provided the same sort of things that the Internet does now, like chat rooms, narrow-topic bulletin boards (the first "online communities,") and opportunities to shop. Since these were proprietary services, they had fairly restrictive terms of service, and were more sanitized than the unrestricted Internet (look at the AOL Safety and Security Center [aol.com] , particularly the "parental controls," for an idea of how they promote this idea. Being a single service, they could also make deals with particular content providers for exclusive goodies.

Eventually, these services started to allow users access to the Internet, first to Usenet, then to the WWW as that became popular. Typically, all Internet access went through the company's servers, since the communication protocol between client and service was usually not TCP-IP.

When Windows 95 shipped, one of the things that had people worried (and AOL suing Microsoft) was that it would include MSN built in, which the competing services contended would give MSN an unfair advantage when users would actually have to make the effort to install their software. This was resolved when Microsoft agreed to include the AOL and Prodigy software in the Win95 install image.

To my mind, the beginning of the end for the online services, and the end of the beginning for the mass-consumption Internet, was the day (in 1996?) that AT&T announced WorldNet, their dialup Internet service available virtually nationwide at $19.95 a month. Before that, standalone ISPs were largely small businesses, like Software Tool & Die; AT&T's announcement was what pushed it out of the early adopter stage. Once the masses became comfortable on the Internet, content providers had a direct pipe to them and didn't need to work with the online services anymore.

Incidentally, does anyone else think it's ironic that AOL is freeing up most of the AOL content, but CompuServe (which always had a technical bent to it) is still behind the locked doors?

Re:Suddenly it matters (1)

Moochman (54872) | more than 7 years ago | (#16361579)

About the CompuServe comment: Yes, I find it very ironic. I have a CompuServe (2000, aka "AOL Budget Edition") account, and my parents are still paying for it since my mom still has yet to be completely weened off of it (onto Yahoo Premium, which is included in our Verizon DSL in case you were wondering). The fact that BYOA (bring your own access) AOL members now get a free ride, while we still have to pay about $8 a month, is ludicrous, especially considering the CompuServe software hasn't been updated in many more years than the AOL software, and spam filtering is non-existant, so at this point I get about 100 spam emails a day. Most outrageous of all, though, is that I am blocked out of using certain new AOL services, specifically the new free AOL mail, Pictures, and XDrive. These are services which are free to any and all AOL Instant Messenger account holders, yet I cannot access them despite my having a screenname and paying for it. It really pisses me off.

That said, the fact that I want to use these services goes to show that AOL has some good services at its disposal. I'm particularly impressed with XDrive's now being free, and I've always enjoyed services like Moviefone, Mapquest, and Shoutcast/AOL radio (all of which AOL of course did not originate but still holds the lead with in my book).

I've also recently tested the new OpenRide software, which is free for anyone with a screenname, and it seems pretty well-suited to families/newbies. (Amazingly enough, it even accessed my CompuServe mail for me.) AOL also has a new beta version of AIM out there without advertisements or voice/video chat features for people who just want to do text IM. These are all steps in the right direction. I just wish I could more whole-heartedly support them, given AOL's past record of horrible customer support and the fact that I myself as a paying CompuServe member can't even access half of the stuff.

P.S. As a tip-off: AOL Pictures is actually a knock-off of Yahoo Photos; both allow unlimited storage of full-res photos. I've already been using Yahoo Photos and can testify that it's a great product that beats Flickr anyday in my book since its interface is halfway decent and doesn't cost a cent.

AOL whatever for? (1)

galatea2.2 (887936) | more than 7 years ago | (#16347599)

I believe that the article has it right in terms of wondering what's to draw people to AOL when what they're offering is availabe quite widely from other providers. Once you've been in the wilds of the web, do you really need the kind of coddling they offer? Shiny interface and its free, but hardly necessary (What's necessary? Think Google). In between that and the recent security slippage, I'm skeptical this will be any kind of draw.

AOL's Somewhat Rewritten History (5, Insightful)

thethibs (882667) | more than 7 years ago | (#16347613)

That's funny. "...at the forefront of the Internet revolution".

AOL was the last of the big BBS' to move to the internet, dragged kicking and screaming into ISP-dom by the flight of its subscribers to services that provided internet mail, usenet, ftp and uucp.

About ten thousand of Jack Rickard's army of sysops were offering internet services before AOL's tentative entry. Hardly "a company that was once ahead of its time", AOL nearly didn't make it at all.

Re:AOL's Somewhat Rewritten History (1)

pipingguy (566974) | more than 7 years ago | (#16350989)

Wasn't Compuserve also big at the time? I jumped from them to a real ISP as soon as I found out about you guys.

Re:AOL's Somewhat Rewritten History (1)

thethibs (882667) | more than 7 years ago | (#16356091)

Ai, Compuserve was the dominant BBS at that time. I was spending about $150 a month there until I was able to get a uucp connection to AlterNet (UUNet). I put up a "waffle" uucp node/bbs and started providing internet mail and news to my consulting clients. This market lasted for about five years until ppp and ip services got cheap and plentiful.

The last of my bbs installations (PCBoard) went offline in mid-2003, nine years after creation. That may be some sort of record.

Doesn't matter - AOL still made waves (1)

Stu Charlton (1311) | more than 7 years ago | (#16355471)

As the largest ISP in America (if not the world) for a time, it was the Wal Mart of the Internet for many years, and remains very popular. My dad recently got cable internet but still has too much invested into 8+ years at AOL to abandon his addresses & communities, so he continued to pay Bring-Your-Own-Access fee.

Family Friendly? (3, Insightful)

jmccay (70985) | more than 7 years ago | (#16347647)

I don't know if family friendly is a word I would use with AOL. Every browsed their own chat rooms? You see a lot of user created room names like M4M in various forms. Also, AOL is more a content provider now than just an ISP. Your average ISP is not AOL/Time Warner. They give away their music videos (music.aol.com). I wonder how they will make money with their free service. Lastly, all you needed to do to use the internet without AOL in the days of dial-up was login to AOL, and then minimize it.

Re:Family Friendly? (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#16348153)

It did not use to be that way. Somewhere along the way, a business guy took over and decided that those kinds of controls were not needed. Once they allowed it to be ran similar to the internet, then there was no advantage to them. Worse, they have remained in MS's backyard trying to compete and moved from Mozilla to MSIE.

AOL is a great case history of how to take a successful company and destroy it. Roughly, save a buck by gutting that which makes it useful as well as make deals with your illegal competitor.

AOL still has my Dad as a customer (3, Interesting)

Mike89 (1006497) | more than 7 years ago | (#16347651)

We started off using AOL when they had all the free trials gear for dialup. When we'd get through a free trial, we'd just use another credit card. Now, Dad pays for Unlimited Dialup (broadband not available at his house) with them. He knows there's cheaper, and in almost every other aspect he shops around. But they Woo'd him in the beginning, probably with the email account for everyone in the family and the "kid-safe" chatrooms. I don't know any other ISPs (atleast in Australia) that run their own (easy to access for the not-so-technically inclined fold) chatrooms, and I think it's a good idea - people are basically forced to behave by the fact their username is tied to a service they're paying for. I still think AOL are good in this respect. Other than that, yes, AOL should "Die in a fire", as the OP states.

Apple community? Tech savvy? (2, Interesting)

also-rr (980579) | more than 7 years ago | (#16347677)

Most of the people who I know who use Macs were recommended them (and recommend them to others) because they want things to be easy and simple.

This *could* be an ideal market for AOL, I agree, but it's hardly tech savvy.

FWIW generally my experience is that the market is split into approximately four parts -
Those that want an easy life (running Macs)
Those that want complete control (running Linux)
Those that don't know what the options are (running Windows)
Those that have specific software needs (running any of the above).

The number of people in category one who could be described as tech savvy is not really all that high. You don't need to know a lot about the insides of a computer to decide that this one doesn't need much work to make it do what you want.

Re:Apple community? Tech savvy? (2, Insightful)

Pr0xY (526811) | more than 7 years ago | (#16347963)

While I understand what you trying to say, I have to disagree with some assumptions you have made. Why can't someone who wants things to be simple be tech-savvy?

Personally I'm a software engineer who deals mostly with kernel level development. I run linux because I like to have more control over how things work (one of your points I agreed with). But none of this means that I wouldn't want things to be simpler. Here's the thing, when a computer is designed such that that tasks you want to do are simpler to get done, you are more productive. Of course the tricky part is that everyone wants to do different things with their computers. So software designers tend to go with what most people want to do and make things like email, web browsing and word processing the easiest tasks to do.

I guess my point is, I see what you are saying, but tech savvy and wanting things easier/simpler are not mutually exclusive.

proxy

Re:Apple community? Tech savvy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16348451)

Those that have specific software needs (running any of the above).

Let's see.

Have to run AutoCAD or Microsoft Project: Windows
Have to run Final Cut: Mac
Have nothing better to do: Linux

It's the old joke: (3, Funny)

blueZ3 (744446) | more than 7 years ago | (#16348749)

Mac: For people who don't want to know why their computer works
Linux: For people who do want to know why their computers works
DOS: For people who want to know why their computer doesn't work
Windows: For people who don't want to know why their computer doesn't work

Re:Apple community? Tech savvy? (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 7 years ago | (#16350695)

I'm nearing the end of a Computer Science PhD, and my primary machine is a Mac. Over the last few years, I have seen more and more people in my department move to Mac. Visiting other computer science departments, I see the same picture. Many of these people have a Windows/Linux/BSD box or two, but they use the Mac for real work. Anyone who uses a Mac and wants to understand what's going on should read Amit Singh's excellent book [amazon.co.uk] . Wanting things to work and being tech savvy are not opposites, in fact I would say there is a strong correlation between the two.

Re:Apple community? Tech savvy? (1)

ejtttje (673126) | more than 7 years ago | (#16351555)

I'd say the "tech savvy" quotient of Macs is going up as those with a clue switch from "don't know the options (running windows)" and move to a Mac instead. The un-savvy stay behind. It's about wanting to use your computer to get stuff done instead of living in fear of hackers, viruses, malware, and paying out the nose for more software because you can't run the open source stuff as readily. But it's also about not *having* to spend time learning about minutia, unless you really want to, in which case you can tweak away almost as well as Linux. It's a very happy medium.

I'm doing a Ph.D. in CS, and as far as I'm concerned the Mac is ideal, and I've been seeing many more of my fellow students jumping to OS X than I ever thought I would, and this is definitely a savvy crowd.

Re:Apple community? Tech savvy? (1)

nevesis (970522) | more than 7 years ago | (#16355127)

I completely disagree.

I've found that about 75% of Apple users are Apple because of the brand image. (ie: we're different so we use Apple!)

Many of the people who use Windows believe that they use it because it's easy.
^- Most people start on Windows and if they're desperate to keep things simple they don't want to learn a new OS.

Most people who use Linux do so because they know what they're doing, or want to look like they know what they're doing.

And I agree with your final one.

Seriously, what does AOL really have to offer? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16347819)

Seriously, what does AOL really have to offer?

The Internet now has a ton of darn good content. At this point, no one company could ever hope to offer a meaningful supplement to the huge choices already available. The idea of AOL charging for "special content" just doesn't make sense anymore. Popular content is now free by definition (wikipedia, google, youtube, P2P, etc.).

The idea of AOL as a provider of bandwidth doesn't make sense -- AOL doesn't own the last-mile pipes into people's homes, so here they are nothing but a middleman, unnecessarily jacking up the cost of service.

Maybe AOL can carve out a niche as a "hand-holder" for novice users; but that requires manning expensive support phones. It's not clear to me that a company can make a profit offering support contracts to the domestic market, where the price points are so low.

And now AOL wants to reach out to the "tech-savvy" segment? Do they not understand that the tech-savvy have spent the last 10 years laughing derisively at the AOL brand name? They would be much better off developing a new brand name for that purpose.

Re:Seriously, what does AOL really have to offer? (2, Insightful)

tonsofpcs (687961) | more than 7 years ago | (#16348149)

And now AOL wants to reach out to the "tech-savvy" segment? Do they not understand that the tech-savvy have spent the last 10 years laughing derisively at the AOL brand name? They would be much better off developing a new brand name for that purpose.

That won't work well, as most tech-savvy people are smart enough to see through the guise.

Re:Seriously, what does AOL really have to offer? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16348899)

> That won't work well, as most tech-savvy people are smart enough to see through the guise.

Time Warner's "RoadRunner" cable service is owned by the same company as AOL. According to your (dubious) argument, tech-savvy people are "seeing through the guise", and are avoiding RoadRunner cable service because of its close relationship with AOL. That's just nonsense.

Even the tech-savvy can't escape being tricked by brand names. For example, most tech-savvy people have an intense visceral hatred of the name "RIAA" -- but paradoxically, they feel much less animosity against "Warner Music", despite the fact that Warner Music outsources its dirtiest legal jobs to the RIAA. The "tech-savvy" are channeling their hatred in exactly the direction that the corporate bosses are telling them to.

It might be true that the very top 1% of the tech-savvy are smart enough to see through all the guises that the industrial powers use to trick us. But then, being only 1%, they have very little power to influence the market, so they are rightfully ignored.

Re:Seriously, what does AOL really have to offer? (1)

tonsofpcs (687961) | more than 7 years ago | (#16349577)

I know plenty of tech-savvy people who have RoadRunner. The reason they have it is they don't have many other options in the price range, they are disgusted with it, dislike giving AOL the money, but their options are limited.

Note that /. posters != "tech-savvy", sure there are tech-savvy people who post here, but not all of them are.

Re:Seriously, what does AOL really have to offer? (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | more than 7 years ago | (#16350733)

speaking as a person that is using RR what i get is a PIPE
1 i don't have any of the software installed ( can't mandriva 2006 is installed)
2 i haven't logged into the email for months (use gmail)
3 and since i work for a retailer i have heard that RR will give you an aol acount free if you really want one (this may have only limited DUN access but...)
the only times my connect has gone down i was back up within 24 hours (one time they had to redo the box on the pole AND CAME OUT ON SUNDAY!!)

Re:Seriously, what does AOL really have to offer? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16349603)

I'll start with the statement that I am slightly suprised to find myself an AOL employee after my employer was recently acquired by AOL. I work for one of the AOL services under discussion here.

Do they not understand that the tech-savvy have spent the last 10 years laughing derisively at the AOL brand name? They would be much better off developing a new brand name for that purpose.
That won't work well, as most tech-savvy people are smart enough to see through the guise.
But the argument is: if AOL has suddenly acquired a clue and will start providing services interesting to everyone without AOL's historical penchant for fucking things up... wouldn't they be smart to drop the AOL brand for their new services?

And in answer to the gp's question, yes the AOL suits do understand that the AOL brand has a bad rep among the tech savvy. My group has been left with their existing brand, though there are broad hints through the signup process that we're AOL now. AOL management (and many non-management employees, including yours truly) are currently trying to find a way to 1) maintain/grow the mass-market user base and 2) provide actually useful and actually cutting-edge services without 3) becoming a target for litigation. I won't explain the specifics of why litigation is a risk, but there are very real dangers competing with many "Web 2.0" companies. Especially when you're a huge content provider yourself with very deep pockets.

Ultimately, AOL as an organization is sincerely trying to find a new way of doing business. They're throwing out the ISP model and working towards a "grab bag of services" with different ways of making money from those services (free for basic, pay for advanced, advertising, etc.). I'm as curious as anyone to see if they manage to overcome enough established assumptions to pull off such a deep and substantial change.

Finally, as a (still slightly suprised) AOL/Time-Warner employee with all of the biases that entails, I would ask that slashdotters do their best to judge each service on it's own merits. Some of the long list of AOL owned services will be truly great. Others, not so much. I hope my group's service gets to the "great" list but we're not quite there yet.

Use what works for you and use it on your terms. If something isn't exactly the way you want it to be: call, email, whatever, but complain and make your voice heard. In my division, the customer support group swings a big stick, and they can alter feature priority and force fixes into the schedule when enough customers let them know that something isn't right. But don't write off a service as useless just because the AOL name is attached. The developers/testers/operations people in my group have a lot more loyalty to our users than to AOL management.

Hope this helps the discussion.

Re:Seriously, what does AOL really have to offer? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16352781)

Hope this helps the discussion.

You're new here, aren't you?

Why I Hate AOL (1)

joschm0 (858723) | more than 7 years ago | (#16347823)

I'm still pissed off that they turned me down as a beta tester for AOL back in the early 90's.

What?! (2, Insightful)

Angst Badger (8636) | more than 7 years ago | (#16347825)

Have things really descended to the point that someone can seriously utter a phrase like, "the tech-savvy community currently owned by Apple"? Apple's entire schtick, from the first Macintosh onwards, has been that their products don't require any kind of expertise, that they "just work", and that they produce the computer "for the rest of us" -- where "us" should probably not be construed to mean frequent Slashdot readers and users of Sourceforge.

Re:What?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16348115)

There's a substantial tech-savvy community that uses Apple computers because Apple computers require less maintenance. Many of them (us) are former Linux users who got tired of the horrific mess that is Linux usability -- I love command-line Unix, but the available X-based desktop environments leave something substantial to be desired. (Example: how do you cut and paste text from one application to another?) The Mac lets me have a GUI that's consistent, while having BSD under the hood.

That said, I'm not sure what's supposed to be particularly enticing to that community about AOL.

This is not the audience that Apple is trying to reach in its advertising, though. That's aimed squarely at the people who don't realize there's an alternative to Windows.

Re:What?! (0, Flamebait)

Servo (9177) | more than 7 years ago | (#16348165)

As an IT professional, the last thing I want to do when I get home is to have to spend even more time fixing my own PC. That's why I own a Mac.

Re:What?! (1)

dubiousmike (558126) | more than 7 years ago | (#16348265)

I have to say as someone who worked in a large mac lab with mac and windows servers, that when I come home, I spend none of my time fixing my pc or my son's pc or my wife's pc.

I did have to spend a few seconds starting ClamWin through VNC on my wife's laptop at one point.

When my dad wanted a computer, I did set him up with a mac. I didn't want to spend time having to fixing it and it was a good thing as his girlfriend's grand kids apparently download all kinds of windows executables that I see littered all over the desktop. That was a good move.

But at home, we all use firefox. My wife and I both use webmail from our own domains. For a long time, I didn't even have ClamWin on any machine (and still don't on my 5 year old's pc as the machine outdates him by 4 years) and have never seen a virus on any of our machines when I would anually run Trend Micro's scanner.

I chalk that up to how one uses the internet, not what platform one uses.

And I have to say that I have seen more problems with 2 year old macs with hardware issues than problems with any of my pcs. In 10 years, I have had to replace one power supply and one SCSI drive...

Re:What?! (1)

HydroCarbon10 (40784) | more than 7 years ago | (#16348629)

Apple's entire schtick, from the first Macintosh onwards, has been that their products don't require any kind of expertise, that they "just work", and that they produce the computer "for the rest of us" -- where "us" should probably not be construed to mean frequent Slashdot readers and users of Sourceforge.

I think you've confused your definition of 'tech saavy' with that of 'masochist'.

Re:What?! (2, Funny)

Urusai (865560) | more than 7 years ago | (#16349115)

Hey, I run Gentoo, I resemble that statement! Hold on, my background emerge -uD is halting, gotta resolve some circular dependencies by tweaking my USE flags. Maybe I shouldn't have gone ~amd64 + crazy CFLAGS + roll-my-own ebuilds. Argh, why is my font messed up? ALSA dmix broken, my tunes not working! Where's that Ubuntu disc? Must not...give in to...dark side...

Re:What?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16348715)

Normally I'd agree that the average Mac user is not all that savvy.... This was generally true during the System/Finder days when Macs would crash every few hours. But something changed about the time they started using a Unix-like OS underneath. (Largely) gone were the crashes and the maddening situation when one application hangs and brings down the machine. The performance issues -- mostly related to the Pascal underpinnings of the previous System/Finder kludge -- were addressed with *BSD's code. Sure, the micro-kernel wasn't exactly efficient, but at least it was no longer painful to use.

Now one thing about me is that I despise elitism; i.e., the idea that a privileged set by virtue of membership in some social/technical upper echelon had the right to be snottish. Mac users always struck me that way (back then). I made do with my 520ST or Amiga 500 or hand-me-down '286. They would say things like, "Well I got the most expensive model because I want it to last a long time." I can afford six thousand dollars for a junior high school kid's computer; that's what they were saying. Back in 1995 (and today) $6K is a heckuva lot of money.

But things have changed. Macs got cheaper. They got legitimately useful. And I, a technically proficient Unix administrator and developer, mathematics teacher, video afficionado and geek, actually think they are a pretty good deal (though the default memory is pathetic). Lots of bright young people are also using them. They could give a rat's ass about the turtleneck wearing Jobs and that annoying Mac dude in the Mac and PC ads, but they find the technology pretty cool. They're writing code to use iSight, hacking drivers for PC hardware, building cool apps to do Interesting Things. And they're doing it on Linux and MacOS. And you know, at the end of the day, all I may want to do is watch a movie or edit one and I can attest that it's a lot easier to do this on a Mac.

KL

If they were smart (2, Funny)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#16347845)

they would offer one of their free CDs with an OS set-up that includes everything that a user needs.
  1. An internet connection.
  2. A good browser; firefox.
  3. A good Office (open office).
  4. Games.
  5. and an optional OS of Linux.

And it would be good if they went back to having cleaned up chat rooms, even though I suspect that that boat sailed.

Aol (0, Redundant)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 7 years ago | (#16347873)

I had aol up intill I got dsl then I rid of aol for good.

Re:Aol (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16348061)

ME TOO!

Re:Aol (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16348183)

OMG!! ROFLMAO!!

Re:Aol (1)

pedalman (958492) | more than 7 years ago | (#16348393)

had aol up intill I got dsl then I rid of aol for good.
I'll bet THAT was a fun experience. How long were you on the phone with the "retention specialist"?

Re:Aol (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 7 years ago | (#16348485)

I don't remember it was 8-10 years ago

Also, Customer support... (0, Redundant)

jimmypw (895344) | more than 7 years ago | (#16347875)

... don't get me started.

"...the ISP for people who didn't know any better" (3, Informative)

dapsychous (1009353) | more than 7 years ago | (#16347971)

AOL recently aced PC World's list of the top 25 worst tech products of all time. [pcworld.com] .

I don't think they were all bad. They did send me all those nifty coasters, frisbees, and BB targets.

Re:"...the ISP for people who didn't know any bett (3, Funny)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#16348211)

Having PCWorld rate the top 25 worst tech products is a lot like Sadaam Husein rating the worst leaders and not even including himself.

Re:"...the ISP for people who didn't know any bett (2, Funny)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 7 years ago | (#16350723)

AOL and Compuserve (remember them?) were great in the pre-CD era. I never bought floppy disks. Whenever I was low, I'd call up their free numbers and tell them I was interested in a free trial. They'd send me the disks, which I would promptly wipe and re-use. CDs took all the fun away.

Interesting, but ... (1)

Axinar (836303) | more than 7 years ago | (#16348277)

All I want to know is why in the WORLD you can't log into the mobile interface to check your email if you have an AOL My eAddress.

Actually, for that matter, you can't even check AIM screen names through that interface.

What gives??

Name Change (2, Insightful)

TwilightXaos (860408) | more than 7 years ago | (#16349059)

Let's face it, it is a safe bet that no one reading /. is going to sign up for AOL or give that company any money at all.

Also, it is possible for the company to turn a large profit without that market (IMHO, IANABA*)

The major problem they face is a image problem, a lot of people who might like a service like AOL have already herd that "AOL Sucks, never use their service". Without debating the validity of that statement, I think most of these people could be fooled by a corporate name change. The people that will see through it probably won't use AOL in any form no mater what, so it doesn't matter, as far as AOL is concerned.

Along with a name change, the new company would need something to make it different from the 5million other ISPs out there. As some have suggested, I think providing a "Safe internet" would be a good one. No content provider is going to win customers by having "special content no one else has". However, the fact is there is a lot on the internet that average people would prefer to avoid. If the new AOL could convince people that it provided a useful and interesting, pre sorted and approved subset of the great big internet; while at the same time allowing people to venture outside the "Safe zone" if they are feeling adventurous, they could carve out a market. Particularly of families where parents don't care to monitor their children and decide what is "appropriate" for them; they could (and I think would rather) someone like their ISP do it for them.

This, as I see it, is what it will take to "turn AOL around".

*IANABA == I am not a business analyst

Name Change Internet 5-1/2 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16351459)

Well considering AOL is also a content creator (Warner/Time). They could easily do "exclusive content". They obviously couldn't compete against illegally gained content. But then most couldn't. But considering that AOL has a wide physical presence all across the world. They could offer services that while not "exclusive", could run better than if they were off the internet proper (much like Google has their own 'internet' as it were). With the wide adoption of broadband. AOL could offer services that would be exclusive to that type of connection. Something the "Internet" can't guarentee (QOS)

Quiz (1)

postmortem (906676) | more than 7 years ago | (#16349163)

What web portal lets you watch all five seasons of Babylon 5?

Re:Quiz (1)

VGPowerlord (621254) | more than 7 years ago | (#16350043)

Youtube?

Re:Quiz (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16350117)

Oh I know! it's minino^Wbittorr^W.... oh never mind!

I'm cancelling (2, Funny)

broKenfoLd (755627) | more than 7 years ago | (#16349187)

Hi, I would like to cancel my subscription to this thread. No really. Please. I really don't want this subscription, please let me cancel. No you can't talk to my Dad. Please just unsubscribe me. Oh, 6 free months of this thread? I'll pay you to unsubscribe me. Therein lies AOL's yellow brick road to profit, make people pay to unsubscribe lol.

Drink Coaster (1)

zx2c4 (716139) | more than 7 years ago | (#16349489)

You mean "The AOL-CD Coaster"!

--
ZX2C4 Instant Messenger [jasondonenfeld.com]

Roller Coaster, indeed. (1)

Khyber (864651) | more than 7 years ago | (#16349587)

I remember from the days of AOL 2.5 up to 6.0. The amount of progz, bombers, and OMFG the "Coach" account program... That was just some intolerable stuff. Though, admittedly, those progz came in handy defending yourself from those other progz out there.

I wish AOL would realize that if they wanted to get mass profit and save money (by needing less programmers for their cruddy software,) they should just have been a pure ISP. Let the users figure their own stuff out without your software in the way. It was this shoddy experience with their software that got me to switch to 'pure' services like DSL and Cable, and hopefully Fiber soon enough. Just provide the bandwidth, AOL, not extra stuff on our computer. No extra security holes, etc. Just give us the LINK, let us screw up otherwise. It's a far smarter move.

Re:Roller Coaster, indeed. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16349693)

I wish AOL would realize that if they wanted to get mass profit and save money (by needing less programmers for their cruddy software,) they should just have been a pure ISP. Let the users figure their own stuff out without your software in the way. It was this shoddy experience with their software that got me to switch to 'pure' services like DSL and Cable, and hopefully Fiber soon enough. Just provide the bandwidth, AOL, not extra stuff on our computer. No extra security holes, etc. Just give us the LINK, let us screw up otherwise. It's a far smarter move.
But AOL decided to go the opposite direction. They're getting out of the "link" business as quickly as they can. Even selling it off to other companies when it isn't dying fast enough (dialup access).

My employer was recently bought by AOL and I find myself somewhat astonished to be working for a company I made fun of so many times in my USENET days. So far, the AOL suits have left our service to try to be great on its own. If that keeps up, I think we've got a chance. There are other recently acquired services like ours that could also be great.

If you're really tech savvy, you'll use the ones you like and ignore the ones you don't. If you could do me a personal favor: complain about the services that are on the edge of being useful to you. Call, email, whatever but tell us what we're doing wrong. Our (service-specific) customer service group is listenening and paying attention, though sometimes the list of emails to go through is a little long (*ahem*).

AOL is for Retards (1)

YaroKutai (933997) | more than 7 years ago | (#16350241)

who don't take showers and smell

Just Glad It's Free! (1)

iwsnet (946715) | more than 7 years ago | (#16351319)

I'm glad AOL finally dumped their monthly charges and offered free service last month. I have been paying $14.95 per month for years and now no longer. Great deal!

I hope it goes down (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16352487)

I hope they go under. Though it's not likely to happen. It would be nice to see them slowly bleed dry.

I have breast cancer and AOL, I'm trying to find more information about it. What do you mean content blocked???
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