While Time Warner keeps denying it, for the past few years, it's been pretty clear that they'd be thrilled to get rid of AOL. If you hadn't been following, it's still been many years since the merger and they refuse to actually merge AOL into their Time Warner broadband property. AOL, of course, has gone through strategy after strategy to try to revive its fortunes -- and most of them have done the opposite. For example, a few years ago, they decided that the best way to get more customers was to build yet another walled garden -- which of course only served to drive people further away. With the rise of the big portals from Google and Yahoo, AOL finally began to realize last year that perhaps they had taken the wrong strategy and finally started to open up just a little bit. Of course, they're still too locked into this idea of proprietary content, so they haven't done much to promote the portal. And, considering it offers little that people weren't already getting from the other (free) providers, it hasn't done much of anything. So, now, that Time Warner's got plenty of other problems to deal with, they're back to shopping AOL for a partial sale, with Microsoft being the rumored buyer of choice. The articles suggest that Microsoft would buy 50% of AOL and merge it into their (also somewhat underperforming) MSN portal. Of course, MSN used have an offering just like AOL, and discovered it was the wrong thing to do -- so it's hard to see how bring back such an offering serves much of a purpose. If anything, Microsoft sees it as a way to boost the traffic to their MSN portal just as they get serious about taking on Google and Yahoo in the search/portal space. Amusingly, the article mentions that Time Warner has been talking to Google and Yahoo as fallback plans should the MSAOL deal fall through. Can you think of a bigger odd couple in the tech world than a marriage of Google and AOL? Sure, AOL serves Google ads right now, but that's about all the two have in common.
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