AOL redid their Postmaster@AOL website so now you can’t find anything.

It’s getting hard to find out much about AOL with only a few million people left who still use it, and many of them pissed about a home page redesign that occurred over four years ago. I can understand AOL isn’t catering to the broadest nor most technically adept userbase and that the need for good services such as the original Postmaster@AOL.com website has been greatly reduced as more and more people quit AOL.

But I think for the sake of trackable history that what AOL has done by pulling down the original Postmaster site only to replace it with the bubbly-looking, inconsequential mess that sits in its place now is wrong. Here’s a screengrab of archive.org’s cache of the original AOL Postmaster website after one of my friends from LiveJournal, Annalivia, redesigned it, right before she left her postmaster position at AOL for good.

This web page no longer exists.

And here is the AOL Postmaster website now:

This web page exists. And I am sorry it does.

I need someone to explain how such an After could possibly be better than the Before.

One day – and I’m not trying to be mean by saying so – AOL will probably cease to exist except as a service people might or might not recall with a laugh, a shudder, or maybe with a few memories, either good or bad.

When that day comes, sites like the last fully comprehensive version of Postmaster@AOL.com will be the only digital footprint left to explain how AOL’s backend, servers, and hardware worked. You can see for yourself with a quick trip through Google that there’s no wiki for that, not on Wikipedia and not on AOL. AOL has erased and deleted every last bit of technically useful information from the knowledge base they once publicly maintained themselves.

I want to know why. How much could it cost them to keep those pages up and running?

The information they held would probably never need to change, so updating them wouldn’t have been much of a hassle. The amount of history lost by erasing them so that the average layperson can’t learn how AOL’s service once worked without having to wait for a media reporter to research it and print up the result of an arduous fact-finding mission is priceless (I can envision her trying to interview devs who worked for AOL 20 years ago, now in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s, who answer every question with one of two phrases: “Well yeah, maybe sort of”, and “Uh, well, no, maybe not.”).

It’s one thing for AOL to delete a how-to cancel page, which they did almost 10 years ago, making me briefly famous for getting pissed about it and embarrassing them in the process. It’s quite another to erase knowledge and history.

It’s probably too late to hope AOL will rethink this, but it sure would be nice if they did.

The Wayback Machine’s cache is at AOL’s whim and mercy. It can be deleted using just one meta tag forbidding it to exist at anytime, so I’m seriously thinking of scraping my own copy. It’s not the most efficient way to fly as code from the archival server will get mixed in and splicing apart what’s AOL’s and what’s exclusive to the Wayback Machine might get messy, but it’s better than nothing, which is about all AOL has left us to look at anymore.

There is no AOL Classic home page. Again, there is no AOL Classic…

So. I want to know why people are still looking for something that went missing four years ago.

There is no AOL Classic home page! It died in 2011! I’ve seen people mourn the passing of loved ones less than you all are crying about an incredibly ugly missing home page design. You all are crying about this:

This design no longer exists.

Which, in 2011, AOL changed to this:

This design currently exists.

Seriously? Are you people really this shallow? Get over it! It’s a freakin’ home page. If I didn’t know any better I’d think AOL turned it into an endless video loop of Satan in lewd poses threatening to off the entire human race and making your kids cry (which might be a tad more interesting, come to think of it).

OK, so it was obviously AOL’s most unpopular design switch-over, ever. I get it. Stop.

This is my blog. And I’d rather it get no visits, print it out, delete it, set fire to the printout, scatter the ashes across the Indian Ocean (take that, AOL India – they’d die because my blog is like one half of their total tech support service) and erase its memory from Google and the world wide web (yes, I can do that; it’s amazing all the things I can do) than read one more comment about how the AOL home page is “missing”, “doesn’t look right” or have one more person ask tell me to find it or else recreate it from my alleged memory of what it was like for you, because naturally everyone who reads this blog thinks I work for AOL (because I never wrote at least one post saying I don’t work for AOL – but you know, if I did work for AOL? I’d find all your IP addresses and make every existing version of AOL’s home page 404 on you just for pissing on about it so much). I don’t give a damn what it looked like. I don’t give damn that it’s gone. I don’t want your questions, visits or concerns. That’s not even why this blog exists. Go away.

It died in 2011. That’s all you or I or anyone needs to know.

Seriously, if it was up to those of you who visit, frantically search and comment upon this blog just to look for the missing home page it would have been front page news on every major news outlet the last three years running, and it would still be front page news now because none of you know the meaning of the word STOP. I’m surprised you folks don’t picket AOL headquarters, sign petitions to bring it back on change.org, blow up Twitter and Instagram about it, and write your congressman demanding its return.

Knowing this audience, now that I’ve suggested all that, at least some of you will do every one of those things, and hey, more power to you!

Rest assured, there is nothing else I can do, except keep repeating what I’ve already said: The AOL Classic home page is gone. Forever! And you really need to get over it.

Verizon Intends to Get Out of FiOS/Landline Business

A comment I received yesterday said, in part: “The lucky ones [implied: who subscribe to Verizon] that could afford fast dsl & then fios a long time ago don’t care about all this misery [implied: for AOL users] and that’s my hard luck”.

I thought how common it might be to believe (or to fear, depending upon your perspective) that Verizon buying AOL was done simply to fold AOL’s dial-up business into Verizon’s landline and cable services. There is also a perception that between AOL users and FiOS subscribers, the FiOS side will get the better end of the stick. Hey, not so fast.

I don’t spend a lot of time updating so I haven’t explained why I disagree, but here goes…I’m not saying anything new or uncovering any earthshaking secrets here, either, just aggregating well-known public information…make of it what you will.

Verizon is getting out of its copperline businesses. All of them. The company will focus strictly on making money from wireless. Don’t believe me? I don’t feel like writing a lot on this because it’s not a topic that does much for me, so let me quote from other media outlets and get on with my day…

Verizon decided to stop rolling out FiOS in 2010, with most of its infrastructure still unbuilt, to remain forever incomplete.

Just a few months before the AOL acquisition, Verizon dumped their existing wireline and FiOS businesses in three states – Florida, Texas and California – to concentrate on wireless.

Verizon gave New Jersey the shaft at a huge cost to its residents – $15 billion, to be exact – and will not expand FiOS as long-ago promised.

Verizon plans to be out of the cable and landline businesses within the next 10 years.

If I were an Verizon FiOS or landline customer, I’d be very, very worried.

I’ll keep the change, thanks.

What follows is pure editorial and I don’t mean to sound like sour grapes but I’ve gotta say it. There would be no Verizon buying AOL today without AOL’s remaining 2 million subscribers – because without those subscribers AOL would no longer exist. That’s right: if 2 million people had cancelled AOL in a more timely fashion you wouldn’t be reading this. Verizon probably would’ve bought Yahoo! because there’d be no AOL left to buy, and I’d be very happy because the sale to Verizon is shaping up to be a disaster.

But nooooo, AOL’s infamous retention schemes, among other problems, have resulted in them getting what they wanted, which was a way to finance their new ventures into selling ads and owning content producers such as TechCrunch, Huffington Post and Engadget – which resulted in me not getting what I wanted, which was for every last paying member of AOL to cancel their accounts.

This is the blog of someone who, 10 years ago, could not cancel a free trial of AOL so she started a blog about it. At the time, AOL had about 15 million subscribers. That is a lot. Thanks in part to blunders such as this can’t cancel fiasco, along with the fact that high speed broadband, DSL and phones and tablets with 3G, 4G and wifi connections actually do exist these days and can be rather affordable, AOL has shed about 13 million more people. For this I’m thankful. But not thankful enough, because 2 million of you have stuck around long enough to enable the disaster of Verizon buying AOL and I can’t get over why anyone would give AOL money if they didn’t absolutely have to. And almost none of you absolutely have to.

To get the “absolutely have to” part out of the way, yes, I understand that for a tiny percentage of subscribers, you have no choice. You live out in Appalachia or out on the prairie – or else you’re of the mindset that you’ve only ever used AOL and you kind of like it and you definitely don’t want to switch now. At least you’ve got something that works where you are, that you fully understand how to use. Great.

But for the rest of you, you probably have not been doing one of a few things, like checking your credit or debit card statements for unauthorized charges from AOL long after you thought you cancelled your dial-up service. Or else you’ve chosen not to cancel AOL, knowing they still bill you every month, because you think you need AOL to get online – but you really don’t, not if you already have a broadband or DSL connection coming into your home or business. And do you seriously think you need AOL for “back-up Internet”? Brilliant marketing ploy from a dying Internet giant, perhaps, but no, seriously, you don’t.

So Cancel AOL Already!!! OMG!!!

The remaining 2 million subscribers are – again – the only reason AOL makes money. If it was only a matter of AOL servicing remote areas or how everyone’s 90 year old grandma has used AOL since 1992 and can’t stop now, AOL would’ve gone out of business a long time ago. The 2 million remaining subscribers are the only thing keeping AOL afloat. And with AOL being sold to Verizon, these subscribers are financing a possible consumer privacy disaster, a serious threat to net neutrality, and a likely throttling of true editorial freedom. Maybe, if you’re a paying subscriber, you could think about what your money is financing before you pay AOL again.

Two million subscribers back in AOL’s heyday of having upwards of 25 million or more was – once upon a time – an acknowledged rounding error where the total amount of subscribers could be higher or lower by about that many people. No one knew for sure. But now that 2 million subscribers is all they’ve got, that’s one rounding error I’ll gladly keep the change on, thanks.

So folks, let’s get started…

Here’s a list of internet providers that are not AOL which provide dial-up. Here’s a list of providers that offer DSL. Here’s a list of broadband providers. Your task right now? Sign up with a provider that services your area, that you like the sound of and that you know you can easily afford. Once you’ve got that out of the way…here’s how to cancel AOL. Got that all done? Here’s how to get AOL’s stuff off of your computer.

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 alone, 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.

Update, 6-5-15: Perhaps realizing that “not shopping itself around” could stop Verizon’s acquisition of AOL, AOL has done a regulatory filing which claims the company recently had three other suitors – but suspiciously enough, the filing does not name them, referring to them only as Company A, Company B, and Company C, and none of the suitors seemed interested in a full-on acquisition of AOL, instead pondering buying AOL assets in more piecemeal fashion. Which still might not be sufficient to fulfill regulatory requirements that AOL – the entire company – be shopped around before selling itself to Verizon.

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?