Desert Sand Mica

Whatever, just crash it Bob...


There's a new virus out there, called America Online 8.0.

I am an informed AOL hater, and the time has come to vent.

The fact is that savvy net users hate AOL. Search for "aol sucks" on the internet, and you'll find nearly 10,000 web pages. But why? AOL is the world's most successful online service, with more than 20 million users relying on its user-friendly services. It's also a survivor which has been around, in its current incarnation, since 1985. AOL, indeed, has often played the role of underdog in the face of companies armed with new technology - technology which should really have rendered AOL obsolete. We're still praying.

AOL's public relations problem stems largely from its success at recruiting first-time users - a key market when the net population has grown, within the last five years, to encompass 45% of the US population and more than 28% of UK adults.

My problem with AOL is not just its ability to introduce legions of naïve newbies to the net, but I am disgusted at the range of AOL policies, from its privacy rules to its customer service. Take into account their technological gaffes, and all-pervasive advertising, and it becomes nothing but a nuisance and a joke.

They will kick you off at unexpected intervals. You can find yourself logged off for inactivity after as little as 5 minutes, especially if you are using an IE browser. Reason: You're only supposed to look at their stuff. They actively hinder your exploration of the rest of the web.

The URL of every AOL user page is , rather than something less lengthy such as or ... why all the extra letters?

AOL doesn't offer you a personal domain name (even if you pay for it) because it would carry no advertisment for AOL. Ridiculous. So your website name is a ridiculous, long, forgettable string of meaningless letters.

The AOL ftp uploader, oh brother. This "toy" is an embarrassment requiring the user to upload each and every file ... one at a time, and type the name of each and every file not once but twice to complete the drawn out process (about twenty clicks per file! ... plus typing). OR you can buy and configure WS_ftpPro and this will solve this problem. Only 60 bucks or so. Ha! But ... It's painfully apparent that AOL did not want its users to make heavy use of their free megabytes of storage space.

Now take the technological side...when AOL first introduced the power to post to internet newsgroups, there was a bug in its software which meant every message was posted five times. It took them 10 months to fix this.

Also, its obscene-word filter software which prevents British users from saying they lived in Scunthorpe, (because of the word cunt) and an incident in 1995 and again in 2000 when women talking about breast cancer in AOL's chatrooms were told not to mention the obscene word breast, or their accounts would be terminated.

Then there were the constant busy signals when membership grew faster than the company could handle. This is still an issue, ask any aol user.

In one of many incidents which have led critics to question the company's attitude to freedom of speech, the American Civil Liberties Union expressed outrage last October over newspaper allegations that a gay AOL subscriber had been instructed to remove details of his sexual proclivities from his online member profile. Meanwhile, anti-racism groups have protested, the firm's policies banning hate speech have allegedly been insufficiently policed and frequently violated.

How about unsolicited email, or "spam" - carrying advertisements for pornography, gambling and get-rich-quick schemes - is an internet-wide problem, but AOL subscribers get much more than their share. The firm has been passive in pursuing "spammers" through the courts, but the scourge continues: two years ago, CNN - now an AOL bedfellow - reported that between 15% and 40% of the service's email traffic was unsolicited. Completely unacceptable.

AOL uses a system of "community leaders", volunteers who agree to welcome new users and police content online in return for free access to the service. The practice, condemned as Orwellian by free-speech activists, was the subject of a US lawsuit in May of 2000 filed by two former community leaders who alleged that the company's use of volunteers violated labor legislation. Disgruntled former leaders now share their woes at the website.

AOL's "free net access" trials - which require credit card details to be submitted so the company can charge users who decide to continue after the trial ends - are more trouble than they are worth. Some trial subscribers who follow online instructions to help them disconnect have found instructions to telephone the company and been plunged into a maze of unhelpful recorded messages. Cancellations sent by fax and mail have often failed to take effect, and subscriptions have continued to be deducted for months.

and when you sign on and get a message saying AOL is loading updates for you? Those are marketing updates, and they are slowing your computer down in the long run.

If you have a website, did you know that your graphics are corrupted and might not even be showing up? That's because AOL has an option that compresses graphics the AOL way, and only other AOL users can see them if you save them like that. And the option is automatically on when you install AOL. They never tell you about it.
You are also going to miss out on other very cool effects, like a lot of java scripts, and Cascading Style Sheet.

Last of all, the cost. aol users are paying up to $23 a month! That is a staggering price, look at and see what others are charging for always on, fabulous service.

Ok, Im done. As you were.


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