Wednesday, August 02, 2006

AOL to offer free Web services

Company steps up the pace for online ad dollars

AOL on Wednesday said it will give away e-mail, software and other Web services for free to high-speed Internet users in a bid to boost online advertising sales. The Internet provider said it would continue to offer its slower dial-up Internet access but will not aggressively market the service.

The AOL transition is set to be completed in early September, and the services to be offered for free include e-mail, instant messaging, a local phone number with unlimited incoming calls as well as safety and security features.

AOL is the online division of the world's largest media company, Time Warner. The Internet provider is undertaking its fourth overhaul in five years. Time Warner has faced pressure from shareholders to extract more value out of AOL and boost its own share price, which hit a two-year low in July.

AOL had already made clear it was interested in changing into an ad-supported Internet network providing information and entertainment to users, migrating away from an Internet access business that continues to lose subscribers.

Related: Will Less Be More for AOL?, AOL to Offer 5GB of Online Storage

Tags: , , ,


RaY-ZoR said...

In my years of experience in the computer troubleshooting, networking, internet security, etc, I've come to the conclusion that AOL is absolutely the worst ISP in the world. I apologize if I have offended someone, but their proprietary browser is confusing and full of bugs. It's security software is flawed and their dial-up service is extremely slow.

Deb S. said...

Ray-zor: I'm going to be honest. I'm not a fan of AOL, so you certainly have not offended me. However, I will say that the 9.0 version is the best version they've had. It's more user friendly than earlier versions.

But I have never liked the browser. There is just too much "stuff." I just used the service to get online, then opened another browser. You are absolutely right about the dial-up service. As for the security software, it used to make me tear out my hair.

If you want to talk about flaws, the biggest one, I think, is the ISP's customer service. I know from experience how difficult it is to cancel AOL.

But let me say something nice. In my experience, the folks who man the help desk are very courteous.

In the end, I think the AOL service is overpriced. It seems the ISP doesn't do a good job of assessing the needs of its customers.

It will be interesting to see how revamping the direction of AOL's services will impact Time Warner's profits.

Thanks for sharing your insight.

Deb S. said...

In case some readers need to be brought up to speed:

The refocusing of AOL marks the end of an era for a company that grew rapidly in the 1990s, giving millions of Americans their first taste of e-mail, the Web and instant messaging through discs that continually arrived unsolicited in mailboxes.

America Online, as it was then known, became the undisputed leader of dial-up Internet access when many people still used that method to get online. The greeting users got when signing on - "You've got mail!" - became so much a part of the pop culture that it was the title of a movie. AOL's shares flew so high in the Internet bubble that it merged with media giant Time Warner in 2000.

But many promises of even more success from that deal evaporated. The company's stock plunged, leaving key AOL executives left under pressure. Meanwhile, customers abandoned the ISP in droves.

The question is this: Is it too late for AOL to recover its profits and reputation?