About Time: AOL Goes Free

from the last-walls-come-tumbling-down dept

After much speculation, AOL announced today that it would finally bite the bullet, and become a free portal, complete with free AOL email addresses for anyone who wants one. The company says it now wants to exploit the “explosive rise in broadband usage and online advertising”, though, of course, it’s already missed out on much of the explosion. At least now the company can be meaningfully compared to competitors, and those on the inside can get better measures of their success. As for marrying content with distribution, the initial goal of the AOL-Time Warner merger, there they still have some work to do.

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Comments on “About Time: AOL Goes Free”

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Lay Person says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Use a spellchecker!


If we are going to read published material, it might be a good idea to use standardized spelling and grammer. Not because it’s important to follow rules but because it’s easier to read. Plays on words (spelling/grammer) may cause the reader to think of things that weren’t intended. It’s just distracting.

Leave intriguing use of words and grammer to poets, not to someone trying to communicate something to a wide audience. Including people to whom English may not be their first language.

Anyway, there are rules so that we agree as to what is being said. Granted, it’s quite clear here that it’s just a mistake and may be overlooked but clearly some people have pent up aggression.

Can you imagine programming code with a misplaced period? It can make or break the code. Humans, though are a bit smarter and are able to deduce the meaning at times.

Man!…way off topic.

Anonymous Coward says:

I remember in elementry and middle school, having an AOL account was access to being cool

I couldn’t wait to have an AOL account so I was even willing to have one for just the free trial period. But every time I tried to cancel they extended the free period for another 30-45 days. I had free AOL for 1.5 years!!! I would always say I did not have time try their product. Even thought I was always on, and they had access to how many hours I used.

Now I have dsl for 14.95, beat that AOL

ed says:

Re: Re: Re:

“lol…I remember in middle school when we didn’t have computers :D”

Hmm, I’ve been using computer since grade 3 (although it’s a vague memory, i know we had a lab at that particular school).

As for AOL, who really cares? I used AOL free trial CDs for archery practice. I almost used an AOL floppy (remember those?) years ago – the only thing that stopped me was at the time I didn’t have a modem. When I first got one, I used sympatico dialup (for a few months then switched rogers cable). basically, I didn’t get online until 98. haven’t left my computer since 🙂

Jaquel says:

Re: Me too!

I didn’t pay for AOL for almost two years! I tried to cancel NUMEROUS times, and was always extended. Then, all of a sudden, I find they are trying to bill me, even turned me over to some bogus “collections” agency. I have no intention of them ever getting a dime, after all, how legit is a bill for something you can hook up to by picking up a free disc at any checkout counter in the USA?

william says:

still on dial up

I’ve still got AOL dial up at home ( I live in the country ) and it is torture. I almost love going to work for the T1 line they have. But I still only use my GMAIL account and Firefox for internet, there services sucks. And they have spyware/virus scanner that manages to pop up on the bottom right corner of my screen and crash DOOM3/Half Life 2 whenever i play.

Anonymous Coward says:

I think some of you guys are missing the point. The only way you can stop paying for AOL service is if you have a separate ISP. AOL will offer stuff like email and various web content for free, but the actual dial-up or broadband connection will never be free. For someone using AOL Broadband, you could probably keep your same email address and whatnot, but to stop paying for the connection itself, you’d have to start paying another ISP. There is a difference between the Internet and the World Wide Web. The WWW is the content, whereas the Internet is the medium used to access it. The WWW may become free mostly, but the Internet will never be free. It’s a utility, just like electricity and water, and nobody will ever be able to offer it for free, unless of course the entire concept of money and personal profit is eliminated from this world.

As for AOL itself, I agree that “better late than never” statement doesn’t apply here. It’s more like “too little too late.” AOL has ripped people off for way too long and it needs to die.

hellsfury (user link) says:

Re: Re:

I couldn’t agree more with everything you have said here. Except that I think AOL should have died years ago when they were still charging $25 for their crappy dial-up service; while all the other ISP’s kept dropping their prices.

I think the only thing AOL has going for them right now is that fact that they now own Time Warner and the host of cable channels that came with Time Warner. I think they need to get out of the ISP business completely, as there are way too many companies out there with better service, prices, etc…

James B (user link) says:


For all you spelling junkies who keep giving everyone shit, it’s

grammar, not grammer… It’s really amusing to watch people criticize other’s for spelling, when them themselves cannot spell or use proper grammar. Get a life guys.. Free email accounts are something of the past and will continue to be free. This is an interesting article though, nice to see AOL opening up there service a little. It is the users fault for paying the ridiculous ammounts of money for the service.

kantankerus says:

i can remember

aol, compuserve and GEnie fighting and 300 baud modems…i was married and a father when i bought my first computer…a Timex/Sinclair 1000, at a drug store..and also “computerized” the local government i worked for, using a commdore 64 and Atari XL’s…i skipped over Apple altogether and have never regretted it..aol was a big time saver back then..things change…and thanks for prompting me to walk down memory lane….oh, for the simpler times….lol

Lay Person says:

Who cares!





You see world, I really am an idiot. I have something to say but lack the skill to say it!

I’m hooping you take this Ceriously cuz I really know what I’m saying but I just can’t muster up enough komunication skills. Really I’m smart and have soemthing valuable to offer but you aren’t taking me saeriously…why?

I hop my shortcomings don’t distract frum the massage.

Whatever he said says:

AOL is always AOL

From AOL 1.0 to today, they haven’t changed their billing policies a lick. I was my first account, and I have a similar story to everyone else’s.

AOL addresses have zero credibility, we advise all of our sales reps never to put one on a business card because it makes them look technically void.

I recently learned that a friend of mine still has one, which he carelessly mentioned at a party last week, and suddenly he was the butt of all the jokes for the rest of the night (crappy party).

If AOL wants to survive, they have a long way to go. The only folks using it seem to be grandparents and the technically void, both of which are dying out.

Tyshaun says:

Not in complete defense of AOL but...

I never had AOL because I basically have been lucky enough to have access to cable/dsl since I graduated college. HOWEVER, for a lot of people, AOL was the internet for a long time. I remember when a lot of products didn’t have websites per-se but AOL “keywords” (did they map to actual http: sites?).

My point is that we at techDirt represent the upper eschelon of computer users but I think sometimes we forget that for a long time AOL and the internet were one in the same to a lot of people. I finally broke the umbilical of my last friend using AOL last year, but it was a fight. AOL was easy for most people, they put it in the computer, plugged in a phone line in the back, and they were “surfing the web” (albeit they didn’t know it was a watered dowm, slowed down version of the web).

Have sympathy on the AOL set, ignorance is bliss.

Not Interested says:

Free AOL address...not thanks

AOL email for free…hmmm. OK, good. Now all they have to do is get everyone in the world to use an aol email account so that no gets blocked. Stay away from AOL, 15 of my company’s major clients will not correspond with vendors or AOL members because of AOL’s consistent blocking of valid domains who are accused of spamming but do not spam in any way. Stay away, stay away….

|333173|3|_||3 says:


Years ago, someone I knew figured out how to crack the n months free trial that AOL gave out every n-1 months, so that once you installed a program, if you kept inserting the free trial AOL cds, you could get free access to the internet using IE/Navigator, without the AOL crap that would normally install. Running the AOL CDs throught he program gave access to the codes which AOL used to connect to them, but it also acted between the Browser and the modem, with a crack to access the whole internet properly. I might see if I can find a copy somewhere.

mIKE says:

AOL really going down now

Half the reason why most users stayed with AOL is because they wanted to keep their email address. Now AOL is going to loose a bunch of customers.

The main question you have to ask yourself if you are using AOL is how many of the AOL services do you actually use and do you find it worth $10+ extra dollars per month for internet? Take a few hours and most everything that is on AOL you can find on the internet for free, not everything but most. I know there is some services on AOL that actually make it worth it but for most people that is not the case.

Daddio says:

What The AOL For?

Why in the AOL would anyone want AOL? My parents had it on their PC when I first gve them one of my old ones. As soon as the disk went into the computer, they lost all control over anything that used to be default. AOL set up it’s own defaults everywhere and my mom was so panicked that I had to go to Arizona from Colorado to “fix” the computer. I fixed it mby removing AOL and told them to never put it back in again. They still have dialup even though I offered to buy them 1.5 DSL and pay for COmpuServe because that was what they replaced the AOL with all those years ago and my mom is a brand loyalest who thinks that if she changes ISPs she’ll have to learn everything all over again. SO why would anyone think free AOL is anything to get excited about?

LionShooter says:

The time has come

I first connected to the internet in 1996 on my state of the art 486 with the largest hard drive available, 200 MB. It also came with a device called a modem, able to access other computers at a blazing speed of 2400 baud. Howevew, the only way to get to the web was through AOL or Compuserve. So I chose AOL, paid by the minute, and often had monthly bills over $100. I still have an AOL email address because that is the one everyone knows, but I access it through my ISP.

And hey all you techie youngsters, watch the grammar and spelling. I’m an English professor.

Michael says:

There is a reason for AOL

There are still plenty of reasons that people–including me–have kept AOL. The main one (already pointed out) is that I’ve had the same e-mail address for 14 years. I have shareware fonts (Lord of the Rings) that have been floating out on the ‘net since being uploaded to AOL 13 years ago, and for which i still get regular props. (Some from kids that weren’t even alive when they were released 🙂 Plus tons of friends who pop up every now and then in my inbox, and are pleasantly surprised when I reply to their e-mails.

Now that the service is free (I wonder if I can just still use the AOL client to check e-mail, etc?) I’ll be cancelling the account. But AOL has been a definite benefit for me over the years.

Dave (user link) says:


Who cares if it’s free!! I downloaded the software, and now I have 10 AOL process’s running even when aol is closed making it run like garbage. I tried to uninstall it and it just closes and freezes.

WHAT GARBAGE, Don’t trust AOL, they are unethical assholes.

I remember back when I had AOL, they stuck a screen just before you signed off that asked you to register a 2nd account. They made the no thanks option tiny, and the Sign me up button huge. If you clicked on it by accident it automatically created a second account and they start billing you. No warnings, no emails, nothing; just a bill.

Seriously, who does that>? Why deal with a company like this? Get email @ hushmaill or hotmail, get everything else from yahoo & google.

Tom says:

AOL going free

I just stopped paying AOL after 10 years and who knows how many thousnd dollars. The major thing about this freebie is the lack of technical support that the Indian lady who took my changeover order kept emphasizing. It scares me because of AOL’s sneaky habit of taking over one’s computer for the new software that AOL keeps insisting that users must have. Like the fairly new “connectivity” stuff. If that muddles up my files and/or directories, who do I ask for assistance? AOL will tell me I ain’t paying to use their service, so it is my problem, I bet. Does any consumer protection law come into play in such a case?

Anonymous Coward says:

(Does this mean that my friends mom, who is paying for AOL for Broadband, can cancel her account and still receive all the benefits of paying $15 a month? Because I know they aren’t going to cancel it for her.)

first AOL has no benifits….

second to the person with the comment in all CAPS…take the caps lock off…. that just gos to show that your only a 10year old kid who is disgruntled with the fact everyone has dsl or cable except you…go away

Aasi says:

Use Gmail, it's better then AOL

I just have to say that I’ve used AOL before….and I really don’t like it. The only thing that’s cool is that they have that unsend button to get rid of an email you sent to another aol accidentally and the status button to check if the other person who has aol checked their email or not.

But either way, Gmail is the best. Register at Gmail….even Yahoo is starting to get a bit cluttered – I’ve had Yahoo for years and it was my first email account back in 2000. Just get out of AOL folks! Don’t use it anymore. Even if it’s free. If you really want to use it, then get rid of the software. It takes up too much computer space. The only reason I can’t take it off my computer is because of my uncle because he’s used AOL since it first came out. We have DSL and wireless and he still wont go online without signing onto AOL. I keep explaining….but he doesnt listen. I don’t know…….I don’t like it.

Gmail is the best. No one will want a free AOL email account. Watch…..it’s over for them now!

Haha says:

I think you guys are absolutely hilarious, I would rather sit here and read your posts vs watching Jerry Springer, or, Bill Nye The Science Guy.

Btw, I’m a loser, broke as a joke so I have to dial up…

I called AOL to cancel today, and I couldn’t understand half of what was said to me, so I do not know if my account is canceled or if they raised the price by $10. :/

Guess I’ll know soon enough, haha.

jun ling says:


i read your post saying aol going free at last the only thing free with aol is it email but is that free no coz people pay to use aol so nothing so far free about aol but i call them and they told me something is going on there in talks but would not say what them talks was about i ask was aol going fee and all i was told is guy the guy on the phone not that he know of but said something was going on as aol was in talks but could not say what that was about aol is keeping the doors close at this time
and they have lost 4 million out of 26million so that meens only 22 million is with aol and the numbers are going down will aol end if the number go down fast
there not getting new people to sign up there singing off
so will aol come to a big end ? that is to be seen

jun ling says:


i read your post saying aol going free at last the only thing free with aol is it email but is that free no coz people pay to use aol so nothing so far free about aol but i call them and they told me something is going on there in talks but would not say what them talks was about i ask was aol going fee and all i was told is guy the guy on the phone not that he know of but said something was going on as aol was in talks but could not say what that was about aol is keeping the doors close at this time
and they have lost 4 million out of 26million so that meens only 22 million is with aol and the numbers are going down will aol end if the number go down fast
there not getting new people to sign up there singing off
so will aol come to a big end ? that is to be seen

Hautedawg says:


Okay, we have seen the gammet of posts, from calling us “COOL NERDS” to calling AOL users LUSERS. We have had grammer/grammar and sentance/sentence fights, but the one thing that keeps getting skipped over is that AOL WAS useful at one time. We all had to start somewhere. I used AOL until I got tech savvy (if I really am) and then upgraded to DSL/Cable. Oh, in between there was a mismash of different ISPs, but AOL got me started on the internet.

If it had not been for AOL, thousands upon thousands of people would never have had the chance to get on the internet. There would have been huge gapping holes of information that would have never been placed on the tubes {satire} and yet we are all so damn high and mighty to think that “Lordy, I NEVER would use AOL”.

AOL opened the doors to countless people who were not lucky enough to have computer courses in high school or college, people who actually used pencils and erasers…people who knew how to write a business letter on an IBM Selectric and lick a stamp to send it. AOL opened the door to so much, to so many…yet we look down our noses at them.

So, since we all feel AOL is evil, how many of us uber geeks made something better? How many of us created a better mouse trap, or do we just look down our noses at something becasue we are superior and expect others to quiver in our wake.

I for one…I like the quivering in the wake, but then again…I am old, I used AOL and thanks to that I now have a career (and have had it for many years) in IT, I have my certs because of an interest in computing and a lot of that came from AOL.

And free or not, it’s shyte now…but at one time it was THE shyte.

Anonymous Coward says:

I have played the AOL game and they have tobe one of the most devious companies. They always find a way to screw you over. I cancelled my account after FIVE months of run around only to be charged a canelation fee THREE months after the fact. The sad part is they get away with it.
The new free email is a load of crap too. Mostly it is just a page of advertsiements. The little tiny window they give you to see you messages is so small that you can only see one message at a time and for spam you can’t veen see the message – you have to openit to know what the heck it is.
Once again AOL is a class act.

Ambrose says:

Some suggestions for cancelling your AOL account.

It’s easier to cancel your account at AOL if you are willing to engage in a little subterfuge.

Voice 1-888-265-8008
Fax 1-703-433-7283

America Online
PO Box 17100
Jacksonville, FL

Tell them you’re sorry, but you have no choice about it and must cancel your account immediately. When you are asked why, reply with an answer they can’t counter.

Tell them your situation has changed and you can no longer utilize their services:

1.) Able Seaman. U.S. Navy. Federal Law requires you not to disclose the location of any U.S. warship, and you’re sorry, but that’s all you can tell them, except that there are no telephones or other way to access the Internet aboard a submarine.

2.) Peace Corps Volunteer Field Worker, Republic of Burkina Faso. No telecommunications access within 120 kilometers.

3.) Convicted hacker. A court order has required you to surrender your computer equipment and refrain from all Internet access for a period of five years.

4.) Victim, canine mischief. Your dog ate your modem.

Be creative.

michelle says:

i tried cancelling aol this morning and they hung up on me ! wouldn’t it be easier to switch to free (since i now i have comcast) and just never use aol or even just delete the software from my computer instead of calling in to cancel and sit on the phone for an hour ? and when i switch to free… is it really free or will they have some sort of hidden fee all of a sudden ?


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