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It is a brand marketed by Verizon Media. The service traces its history to an online service known as PlayNET , which hosted multi-player games for the Commodore PlayNET shut down shortly thereafter.
By , AOL had about 20 million active users. AOL was one of the early pioneers of the Internet in the mids, and the most recognized brand on the web in the United States.
It originally provided a dial-up service to millions of Americans, as well as providing a web portal , e-mail , instant messaging and later a web browser following its purchase of Netscape.
In , at the height of its popularity, it purchased the media conglomerate Time Warner in the largest merger in U. AOL rapidly declined thereafter, partly due to the decline of dial-up and rise of broadband.
Under his leadership, the company invested in media brands and advertising technologies. In January , Steve Case was hired as a marketing consultant for Control Video on the recommendation of his brother, investment banker Dan Case.
In May , Jim Kimsey became a manufacturing consultant for Control Video, which was near bankruptcy. Kimsey was brought in by his West Point friend Frank Caufield , an investor in the company.
In , Case was promoted again to executive vice-president. Kimsey soon began to groom Case to take over the role of CEO, which he did when Kimsey retired in The service was different from other online services as it used the computing power of the Commodore 64 and the Apple II rather than just a "dumb" terminal.
It passed tokens back and forth and provided a fixed price service tailored for home users. From the beginning, AOL included online games in its mix of products; many classic and casual games were included in the original PlayNet software system.
In the early years of AOL the company introduced many innovative online interactive titles and games, including:. This also coincided with a new " carpet bombing " marketing campaign by CMO Jan Brandt to distribute as many free trial AOL trial disks as possible through nonconventional distribution partners.
Department of Education , and many other education providers. This was renamed to AOL Search in A commercial featuring Steve Case telling people AOL was working day and night to fix the problem was made.
In , about half of all U. The deal closed on January 11, Steve Case served as Chairman, J. In , along with the launch of AOL 9.
In , AOL broadcast the Live 8 concert live over the Internet, and thousands of users downloaded clips of the concert over the following months.
The program rated the computer on a variety of different areas of security and general computer health. This software was developed by Kaspersky Lab.
Active Virus Shield software was free and did not require an AOL account, only an internet email address. The move was designed to reduce costs associated with the "Walled Garden" business model by reducing usage of AOL-owned access points and shifting members with high-speed internet access from client-based usage to the more lucrative advertising provider, AOL.
The other free services included: Service centers based in India and the Philippines continue to this day to provide customer support and technical assistance to subscribers.
On September 17, , AOL announced it was moving one of its corporate headquarters from Dulles, Virginia , to New York City  and combining its various advertising units into a new subsidiary called Platform A.
This action followed several advertising acquisitions, most notably Advertising. Most compensation packages associated with the October layoffs included a minimum of days of severance pay, 60 of which were given in lieu of the day advance notice requirement by provisions of the Federal WARN Act.
On June 11, , AOL had already announced the acquisition of Patch Media , a network of community-specific news and information sites which focuses on individual towns and communities.
On September 14, , AOL formed a strategic ad selling partnership with two of its largest competitors, Yahoo and Microsoft.
The strategy was designed to help them compete with Google and ad networks. On March 15, , AOL announced the acquisition of Hipster, a mobile photo-sharing app for an undisclosed amount.
The deal includes a "perpetual" license for AOL to use these patents. In April, AOL took several steps to expand its ability to generate revenue through online video advertising.
The company announced it would offer gross rating point GRP guarantee for online video, mirroring the TV ratings system and guaranteeing audience delivery for online video advertising campaigns bought across its properties.
The Digital Content NewFront were conducted in advance of the traditional television upfronts in hopes of diverting more advertising money into the digital space.
In August , Armstrong announced Patch Media would scale back or sell hundreds of its local news sites. Later that year, AOL also acquired Vidible, which developed technology to help websites run video content from other publishers, and help video publishers sell their content to these websites.
The transaction was completed on June Armstrong , who continued to lead the firm following regulatory approval, called the deal the logical next step for AOL.
Analyst David Bank said he thought the deal made sense for Verizon. Shortly before the Verizon purchase, on April 14, , AOL launched ONE by AOL, a digital marketing programmatic platform that unifies buying channels and audience management platforms to track and optimize campaigns over multiple screens.
Creative, which is geared towards creative and media agencies to similarly connect marketing and ad distribution efforts.
On June 29, , AOL announced a deal with Microsoft to take over the majority of its digital advertising business.
Under the pact, as many as 1, Microsoft employees involved with the business will be transferred to AOL, and the company will take over the sale of display, video, and mobile ads on various Microsoft platforms in nine countries, including Brazil, Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom.
Both advertising deals are subject to affiliate marketing revenue sharing. On October 1, , Go90, a free ad-supported mobile video service aimed at young adult and teen viewers that Verizon owns and AOL oversees and operates launched its content publicly after months of beta testing.
Publishers, which combines six previously separate technologies to offer various publisher capabilities such as customizing video players, offering premium ad experience to boost visibility, and generating large video libraries.
In July , Verizon Communications announced its intent to purchase the core internet business of Yahoo! In April , Oath Inc. AOL has a global portfolio of media brands and advertising solutions across mobile, desktop, and TV.
Solutions include brand integration and sponsorships through its in-house branded content arm, Partner Studio by AOL, as well as data and programmatic offerings through ad technology stack, ONE by AOL.
AOL offers a range of integrated products and properties including communication tools, mobile apps and services and subscription packages.
AOL Desktop is an internet suite produced by AOL that integrates a web browser , a media player and an instant messenger client.
AOL Desktop version Its features are focused on web browsing as well as email. For instance, one does not have to sign into AOL in order to use it as a regular browser.
In addition, non-AOL email accounts can be accessed through it. The first two require users to sign in, but the shortcuts to web pages can be used without authentication.
X was late marked as unsupported in favor of supporting the AOL Desktop 9. Version 11 of AOL Desktop, currently in Beta, is a total rewrite but maintains a similar user interface to the previous 9.
X series of releases. In its earlier incarnation as a " walled garden " community and service provider, AOL received criticism for its community policies, terms of service, and customer service.
The disks were distributed in large numbers; at one point, half of the CDs manufactured worldwide had AOL logos on them. Most content maintenance was performed by partner and internal employees.
Community leaders were recruited for some content design and maintenance, for which they used a proprietary language and interface called RAINMAN.
Other community leaders hosted chat rooms and provided online help. During the time that AOL customers paid by the hour, chat room hosts were compensated in free online time for each hour they worked, though any banked hours became worthless once fixed-rate payment was introduced.
The lawsuit was filed in the United States Federal Courthouse, New York City on May 25, , and was followed shortly by the dismissal of all community leaders under the age of 18 years, as well as a reorganization of the community leader program as a whole.
The program was eventually ended on June 8, Current Community Leaders at the time were offered 12 months of credit on their accounts in thanks for their service.
Within one decade of the class action lawsuit being filed, the class had grown to over 6, members, comprising the largest class action lawsuit ever filed against an internet based company.
Currently it is the third largest class ever involved in any lawsuit on a federal level in the United States, affecting ultimately the employment eligibility of individuals in an online environment.
In February , a settlement was approved by the Courts in the class action suit. This payment was then divided into thirds, the first of which was attorney and legal fees.
Five million was then divided among the included members of the class which consisted of more than 7, individual former Community Leaders.
The final five million dollars was donated to charities hand picked by Hallissey and Williams, and then approved by the Courts for distribution.
One such charity, the Remote Area Medical Foundation www. Prior to the class action lawsuit, the community leaders were informed of a change in compensation for duties performed by AOL.
Community leaders would be charged a reduced rate per month for their accounts, and would no longer be given unlimited access without invoice.
During this live announcement via an online meeting of all community leaders in a virtual arena, Brian Williams of Dallas led many community leaders in a virtual "strike" or "sit-in" to protest the new charges the community leaders were now being asked to pay.
This protest or strike is noted as the first of its kind for an online environment and was nicknamed for the row of the arena it was held in: Following the protest, AOL terminated the online working relationship between itself and several of the Community Leaders involved.
Quickly following the release of these community leaders, each was reinstated, with the exception of Williams, due to his role in the protest.
AOL has faced a number of lawsuits over claims that it has been slow to stop billing customers after their accounts have been canceled, either by the company or the user.
In addition, AOL changed its method of calculating used minutes in response to a class action lawsuit. Previously, AOL would add 15 seconds to the time a user was connected to the service and round up to the next whole minute thus, a person who used the service for 12 minutes and 46 seconds would be charged for 14 minutes.
AOL disclosed its connection-time calculation methods to all of its customers and credited them with extra free hours.
In addition, the AOL software would notify the user of exactly how long they were connected and how many minutes they were being charged.
The case was settled on June 8, Many customers complained that AOL personnel ignored their demands to cancel service and stop billing.
Under the scheme, customer service personnel received bonuses worth tens of thousands of dollars if they could successfully dissuade or "save" half of the people who called to cancel service.
These bonuses, and the minimum "save" rates accompanying them, had the effect of employees not honoring cancellations, or otherwise making cancellation unduly difficult for consumers.
Under the agreement, AOL would no longer require its customer service representatives to meet a minimum quota for customer retention in order to receive a bonus.
On June 13, , Vincent Ferrari documented his account cancellation phone call in a blog post,  stating he had switched to broadband years earlier.
In the recorded phone call, the AOL representative refused to cancel the account unless the year-old Ferrari explained why AOL hours were still being recorded on it.
Ferrari insisted that AOL software was not even installed on the computer. The conversation was aired on CNBC.
When CNBC reporters tried to have an account on AOL cancelled, they were hung up on immediately and it ultimately took more than 45 minutes to cancel the account.
The company estimated that it would lose more than six million subscribers over the following year. They were the most frequent user of this marketing tactic, and received criticism for the environmental cost of the campaign.
The mass distribution of these disks was seen as wasteful by the public and led to protest groups. When AOL gave clients access to Usenet in , they hid at least one newsgroup in standard list view: AOL did list the newsgroup in the alternative description view, but changed the description to "Flames and complaints about America Online".
With AOL clients swarming Usenet newsgroups, the old, existing user base started to develop a strong distaste for both AOL and its clients, referring to the new state of affairs as Eternal September.
AOL discontinued access to Usenet on June 25, AOL then provided community-based message boards in lieu of Usenet.
It is separated into three different sections: During the period when volunteer chat room hosts and board monitors were used, chat room hosts were given a brief online training session and test on Terms of Service violations.
Some users disagree with the TOS, citing the guidelines are too strict to follow coupled with the fact the TOS may change without users being made aware.
A considerable cause for this was likely due to alleged censorship of user-generated content during the earlier years of growth for AOL.
In early , AOL stated its intention to implement a certified email system called Goodmail, which will allow companies to send email to users with whom they have pre-existing business relationships, with a visual indication that the email is from a trusted source and without the risk that the email messages might be blocked or stripped by spam filters.
This decision drew fire from MoveOn , which characterized the program as an "email tax", and the EFF , which characterized it as a shakedown of non-profits.
Esther Dyson defended the move in an editorial in The New York Times , saying "I hope Goodmail succeeds, and that it has lots of competition.
I also think it and its competitors will eventually transform into services that more directly serve the interests of mail recipients. Instead of the fees going to Goodmail and EON, they will also be shared with the individual recipients.
Comcast , who also used the service, announced on its website that Goodmail had ceased operations and as of February 4, they no longer used the service.
On August 4, , AOL released a compressed text file on one of its websites containing 20 million search keywords for over , users over a 3-month period between March 1, and May 31, intended for research purposes.
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