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A Brief History of AOL

written by: Matteo•edited by: Linda Richter•updated: 10/14/2009

AOL is still around currently providing free online services competing with Yahoo! and MSN.

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    AOL History

    America Online no longer bombards potential AND existing customers with CDs offering hundreds of hours as part of their free trial. Once the world’s largest ISP based on subscriber count, they are a shadow of their former selves, but surprisingly they still exist.

    The projects that were to become AOL were mainly focused on computer games. The AOL brand first appeared in 1991 with AOL for DOS and it didn’t leave its gaming history behind it. AOL 1.0 for Windows and MacIntosh followed in 1992 and 1993. AOL’s popularity was based on its ease of use and brand exposure. Competitors required a greater learning curve. AOL made getting online and communicating in multiple facets - web, mail, IM, chat - much easier for the average consumer at the time with a unique user-friendly interface.

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    AOL Milestones and Release History

    Some major milestones in AOL Release history:

    AOL for DOS February 1991

    AOL 1.0 for Windows 3.x November 1992

    AOL 1.0 for Mac January 1993

    AOL 1.5 for Windows 3.x June 1994

    AOL 2.0 for Windows 3.x September 1994

    AOL 2.5 for Windows 3.x June 1995

    AOL 3.0 for Windows 95 June 1996

    AOL 4.0 July 1998

    AOL 5.0 September 1999

    AOL 6.0 October 2000

    AOL 6.0 for Windows XP September 2001

    AOL 7.0 October 2001

    AOL 8.0 October 2002

    AOL 9.0 August 2003

    AOL 9.0 Security Edition November 2004

    AOL 9.0 for Vista November 2006

    AOL 10.0 (AOL Desktop) December 2007

    AOL 10.0 for Mac May 2008

    AOL has added a plethora of services and products over the years to complement their internet access service package and internet portal. Instant messaging and web storage highlight a number of features that made AOL so popular. Subscriber numbers peaked at over 25 million in 2002 to well under 10 million in early 2008. Many small businesses still use addresses for e-mail communication, but those numbers are dwindling as well. Certainly, AOL has been a reasonable collaboration tool for mom and pop businesses with little or no internet expertise.

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    AOL Instant Messenger

    AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) is free as well and remains popular. It is available for several platforms, especially Windows and Mac. Figure 1 shows AIM 6.8 on Windows Vista. In August 2006, AOL began offering all of its services for free. AOL looks more like Yahoo! these days both as an information portal [See Figure 2] and a web-based e-mail client [See Figure 3]. AOL recently announced they would be cutting a few product lines, including AOL Pictures, BlueString and XDrive, to focus on an advertisement-based revenue model.

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    AOL Instant Messenger 6.8 on VistaAOL Web PortalAOL Web Mail