If you can remember the 1990s you will remember the quiero taco bell dog, Bill Clinton and a time when America Online ruled the world wide web. In 1995, they were one of a handful of companies to provide dial-up internet to the United States. America Online, or AOL as they became known, was at the helm of one of the most successful and expensive direct marketing campaigns of the era. AOL mass mailed access, first via floppy disc and then CD-ROM, to almost every home and business in the United States multiple times over. By 2001, those annoying ‘free access’ discs were constantly clogging mailboxes and AOL was the largest internet service provider. However, fifteen years later it is almost unrecognizable.
AOL consumed my adolescence!
I have vivid memories of receiving AOL discs in whatever teeny-bop magazine I was reading that year. I can remember begging my mom to get AOL- ‘we need it’ I’d say, ‘I want to talk to my friends (and boys) on AIM (their now antiquated instant messaging program).’ My mother never caved, and I had to wait to acquire an AIM outside of AOL dial-up access. My social life was ruined, much to my dismay. I cringe at my original user name, something along of the lines of grinch_princess.
Our children shall never know the excitement (or dismay) of hearing ‘you’ve got mail’ or concocting the perfect away message. I am guilty of leaving more than a few ‘away messages’ containing bad lyrics and poems. I lamented over fonts, background colors and text colors. Moreover, I spent untold hours of my youth on AIM or in various chatrooms. As such, AOL changed the way my generation communicated, revolutionizing the idea of an instant messaging program and giving us our first look at texting shorthand (ASL anyone?).
Now more than twenty years later, AOL has grown up a bit.
They’ve gone through a major breakup (with Time Warner) and came out of that partnership on somewhat unsteady feet. They gained footing, branching out, purchasing Huffington Post and a few other smaller media publishers in the 2010s. They made documentaries, and acquired tech outlets. Moreover, in 2013, they had their first financial growth in five years. 2015 was a big year for AOL; they were acquired by Verizon and received two emmy nods for documentaries. While not the tech giant they once were, AOL is still a viable company doing revolutionary things. Who knows where they will be in the next twenty years, because while we may not recognize them at fifty, I bet they will still be standing, a resounding presence in technology and the internet.