Verizon AOL Portal up since Aug. 2013

In perhaps a small presage to the Verizon/AOL deal, Verizon has been running an AOL web portal for smartphone users since May 2013 (the first archive.org record of it was made on Aug.26th 2013; the cached page welcomes users “to the new Verizon Portal by AOL”).

Curious as to how this happened, I found an AOL press release which explains very little:

AOL To Offer Exclusive Mobile Web Portal To Verizon’s Smartphone Customers

(NEW YORK) May 6, 2013 – AOL (NYSE: AOL) announced today a content distribution partnership that will bring the AOL.com portal to Verizon Wireless smartphones and certain tablets running the Android, Windows Mobile and RIM operating systems. It is the first time that AOL will be the exclusive provider of the VZW Home mobile web portal on smartphones and tablets for the nation’s largest wireless carrier.

Beginning this summer, existing and new Verizon Wireless customers will have the AOL portal bookmarked on their smart phones and tablets’ web browsers. The multi-device experience will feature the recently refreshed AOL homepage — with breaking news, weather and maps — as well as live streaming events and popular videos. Personalization features will allow users to customize news sources, categories and other tools to their needs.[…]

Everyone talks about how the allegedly false rumors of Verizon wanting to buy AOL were quickly hushed-up but in the long run quite true, but no one mentions they’ve partnered before to bring this co-branded portal about (which, strangely enough, uses Bing as its default search engine. This is strange because AOL normally uses a co-branded version of Google for search, but Bing seems to have some sort of an agreement with Verizon which might preclude AOL using their own search appliance).

Also little known to the teeming masses, Verizon’s FiOS once had a co-branded AOL home page which Verizon discontinued on Oct. 15, 2011, according to a Verizon Support page.

AOL Sale Might Not Go Through: Shop the Company/Lack of Fiduciary Duty

In other news around the AOL sale, there’s a very real chance it might not go through. While everyone (including myself) talks as though it’s a done deal (and Tim Armstrong has been said to be hoping to get it over with about a month from now) there are problems with how it was conducted. AOL did not shop itself around, accepting the first interested suitor to come along. (As I said on another blog, this could have been your local Stop ‘N Shop for all the difference it makes; AOL was not looking for “synergy” so much as “some money”, and Timmy stands to gain a lot of it from this sale – $180 million in stock options, to be exact).

Another problem as seen by several attorneys, including a former Attorney General of Louisiana, is that AOL has potentially valued itself, at $50 per share, a bit too low. There are quite a few attorneys investigating that possibility.

I had a dream the other day that I updated this thing…(then Verizon bought AOL)

…with a how-to. It was a great how-to. I can’t remember what I was how-to-ing about but it went over very well, and I remember re-reading it and thinking wow, that is great. Maybe I should write more crap like this.

Then, of course, I woke up.

I started thinking, what the heck would I update Anti-AOL with now? Wrote my how-tos. That’s been done.

So I went online today and was reading something else entirely (no, you guys really don’t want to know what it was) when I caught a headline that read: “Verizon Buys AOL“. And I went, “Wait: WHUT???”

Then I recalled my dream.

So here’s your update. It’s not quite what I dreamt about, but, oh well.

Being Marah Marie, Girl Reporter, I would like to know (and might very well contact Verizon to inquire – which yes, will result in another update, may the Lord have mercy upon us all) if this deal involves any upcoming changes in service or software for AOL’s 2.2 million remaining subscribers (a more meticulous breakdown of the numbers can be found in AOL’s May 8th earnings report), but other than that there’s not much here to get excited about…AOL will get to keep their Anti-AOL-infamous NY headquarters, Timmy will get to keep his job and …yeah, folks, that’s about it. *sigh*

Any thoughts on the Verizon deal?

How Google’s New Privacy Policy Will Affect You While You Use AOL

Yesterday on my other blog I asked readers an odd question: “How will Google’s new all-in-one privacy policy affect people who use AOL’s search engine, since it’s “enhanced by Google”?” It’s a question no one’s asked – nor answered before. Without waiting for a response, I fired off two emails: one to AOL’s Privacy Team, the other to Google’s*. My email to AOL is as follows:

To whom it may concern,

I run an informational blog about AOL and am politely requesting an official response to the question, “How does Google’s new privacy policy affect users of AOL’s Google-enhanced search?” Are AOL users (especially those signed into AOL when they perform searches) subjected to Google’s new one-for-all privacy policy, which went into effect on March 1, 2012 and is described by Google here: http://www.google.com/intl/en/policies/privacy/?

If so, in what ways exactly are AOL users affected by Google’s policy changes?

Specifically, if an AOL user signs into AOL, for example, with the handle aoluser@aol.com while also signed into Google as, for example, googleuser@gmail.com, then conducts searches on AOL’s search engine, does Google collect information on aoluser@aol.com’s searches and tie them to googleuser@gmail.com’s account?

Any and all information you can impart on this important topic is appreciated. Thanks in advance for your time in this matter.

Sincerely,
Ms. M. Marie

And this is how AOL responded (with added emphasis my own):

Dear Ms. Marie,

Thank you for your inquiry about how AOL Search enhanced by Google may be impacted by Google’s privacy policy update. Currently, users who visit AOL owned and operated properties or use AOL products (such as AIM, Winamp, AOL Editions, etc.) are not affected by Google’s recent privacy changes, as AOL does not share individual user data with Google. Searches performed through AOL Search are transmitted to Google through an AOL-managed proxy. During this process, unique identifiers (including personally-identifiable information, cookie IDs, AOL usernames, email addresses, full IP addresses, etc.) are removed by the proxy before being submitted to the Google search API. AOL users that choose to consume Google products (e.g. Gmail, Google Toolbar, Google Maps, etc.) while connected to the Internet via the AOL software will be affected by Google’s privacy changes – just as they would be with any other Internet Service Provider.

We are committed to continuing to work closely with Google to ensure we are providing transparency to users of AOL Search. As AOL continues to innovate and develop new products and features, including functionalities from other service providers, we are committed to providing appropriate information and options to our users. Please visit http://privacy.aol.com for the most up to date information and options for the treatment of your AOL information.

Should you have further questions regarding AOL’s collection and use of information, please feel free to contact us at this email address [privacy@aol.com].

Regards,
AOL Privacy Team

In plain English, I think what AOL means is: it doesn’t matter if you’re signed into AOL or Google (or both) when you use AOL search, because all data transmitted by AOL to Google 1) goes through AOL’s proxy servers first, which strips out most of your IP address (and stripping out your IP address, folks, is good, because Google also collects info on you based solely on the IP address you search and use Google on, without even signing in!) and 2) your data is so anonymized by the time it gets from AOL’s proxy servers back to Google’s machines that no one at Google could reliably tie it to your AOL or Google account, anyway.

So now you know that using AOL Search (“enhanced by Google!”) is nearly as good at protecting you from Google’s new privacy policy – which is seen by vast swaths of the Internet as highly intrusive and not privacy-enhancing at all – as searching Google without signing in using any proxy you’ll find on Proxy.org (which is like, a whole list of proxies, dudes…seriously, check them out).

*Google has not yet responded to my request for clarification.

Wow, Internet: hi. Yes indeed: AOL’s Classic home page is gone again.

If you know where the damn page is this time, let us know – leave a comment!

It’s perfectly bizarre to check your stats maybe once a month like I do and expect to see the normal 100-200 visitors a day but instead see there’s been almost 1600 – in under 36 hours. I mean, I don’t even update this thing. Even more bizarre? Looking at both referrer and search term stats, I can’t figure out where the heck ya’ll are coming from, but I’m uh…in shock that you went and found me, regardless.

Missing in action: an entire AOL home page. Whoops!

AOL Classic home page: missing in action - again!

It’s suddenly become as contagious as a rash for people to find AOL’s Classic home page, so, to judge by my stats, which are positively smothered in search terms such as “aol classic”, “classic aol homepage”, “http://www.aol.com/?backtoclassic”, “aol classic homepage”, “http://www.aol.com/?src=classic”, “back to classic aol homepage”, and “aol.com-classic”, I’ll assume that’s what most of you are after.

Here, let me make it easier on ya’ll – you’re welcome!

The AOL Classic home page is gone. Yessiree. Again. In honor of the amount of visits I’m getting – 125 an hour, which is a lot for this stupid blog – I’ve looked around the wild and wooly interwebs figuring it’s somewhere (and knowing AOL’s devs, it’s either live or on their Intranet, but still kickin’ around) but I can’t find a working link to it just yet. AOL waved their super-secret magic wand to make go poof! sometime yesterday, August 25th, according to Google’s last cache of aol.com, but put no new link in place that anyone can find to restore the Classic look for their apparently very loyal users.

FYI: this link will no longer give you the Classic look: http://www.aol.com/?src=classic. The link works, but brings you to that artsy-fartsy bullshit AOL has in place now. I even ran the link through this tool to make sure there were no cloaked 301 redirects in place, but there’s not. The only redirect AOL has in place is for the non-www version of that page, which permanently points to the www version. If anyone knows how to get to AOL’s Classic home page, please let us know!

People. For the last time, I DO NOT work for AOL.

I’m shocked any of you can look at this blog and think someone at AOL runs it. Just to re-state the obvious: I do not work for AOL. I’ve never worked for AOL. No one at AOL writes or consults for this blog. I cannot cancel, delete, remove, modify, upgrade, edit, fix or destroy anything in your AOL account for you. Is that clear enough? Holy crap, I don’t think it is.

In case anyone with a brain (which obviously isn’t most of you) finds this post and wonders what I’m flailing about now, just check out a few of the more recent comments, then remind me quick why I own this blog before I File 13 the entire thing:

Hi I just wanted to let you know that I have enjoyed being a aol costumer. But I have a new computer and lost my job have to down size my bills.I am disconnecting my land line phone so I changed my e-mail address. Can you transfer EVERYTHING from my aol acc. to my new e-mail address and that is smluiz@comcast.net my contacts,e-mails,pictures ect. Thank-you so very much. Also please e-mail me so I know you got this. Thanks again

[original]

Sue Luiz

Extra flailing points to Suzy for posting her email; publishing email addresses in this space will get you spammed. Yeah, I could edit them out, because this is WordPress, where I can do anything I want, including re-write the comments in Swahili – but it’s not my job to look out for you. That’s your job.

Here’s another classic “Let the spammers have at me” moment:

I would like to cancel aol account (choclab24@aol.com) because I got many scammers in my aol so I got other screen name so can u remove choclab24 pls

[original]

Or how ’bout this one? Kudos for pen-and-ink letter composition, but no points for wasting that letter on me:

Dear AOL Team,

I have AOL mail a/c and I find at times some mails are sent from my mail Id without my knowledge. These stray mails are not sent by me. Please let me know how can I cancel my AOL mail a/c.

Regards,

RG Bhat

Bangalore

INDIA

[original]

Goddamn it, people, I do not work for AOL.

I think AOL’s cancel and support reps look for sites that focus on AOL, then tell their members to check us out so they won’t have to help anyone themselves. People could not really be this stupid otherwise, could they?