AOL selling off/closing down International Operations? And AIM Phoneline going-going-gone.

Just got a comment on my blog from “Frank” saying:

I just found out – not sure if this is true – that AOL has sold off (is selling off) all its international operations. This has already happened to the Uk and Australia. If you use webmail or have set up a free webmail post box (as suggested on every AOL home page) – and are not an AOL paying subscriber, you will suddenly be ‘cut off’ leaving you with a sign in screen message saying that you’re not in the US and your account has been cancelled. This applies to everyone who has a .com email address originally outside the US (about 50M people). They will now be moved to .co.uk (for the UK) and .com.au (for Australia).

Without more information from “Frank” I’ll have to assume he got his information from a talkative type at one of the AOL call centers – but is what he was told true? If not, why was he told that?

AIM Phoneline Hung Up For Good

Unrelated to the above, but I don’t have time to rustle up a new post on it – via Terence Chang – AIM Phoneline will be discontinued as of Jan. 13th, 2009. His post lists plenty of good alternatives. One of my readers tipped me off to problems with canceling AIM Phoneline here.

4 thoughts on “AOL selling off/closing down International Operations? And AIM Phoneline going-going-gone.

  1. I hold doubt in this tip.
    I doubt this tip has credibility.
    Before I list why, I want to thank the community of connected folks who share this information for AOL users’ benefit. It’s appreciated and we’re glad to conceal ones’ identities if they have valuable information. (If you have proof, share it — is all I’m saying. πŸ˜‰
    AOL already has their mail products internationalized as language packs; where as the codebase is in the US. That is, all it takes is one change to the code versus 18 additional changes to the code for different countries. There is no efficiencies gained in shutting down the international mail products.
    AOL acquired seven unique, international advertising networks. Assuming, AOL cut non-US out of their e-mail, they would severely limit their international growth for their ads. That is, their non-US ad networks would lose a lot of steam.
    AOL accounts are divided up into these categories:
    – AOL/CS
    – AIM/ICQ
    – ONS
    AOL screennames are universal and aren’t in buckets by country. They are simply divided by two large databases. AOL accounts are from one system, and AIM/ICQ accounts are in another. ONS accounts are simply AIM accounts with a different front-end name displayed. For “fake AOL” portals like AOL India, AOL China and stuff, AOL accounts are merely ONS accounts.
    Regardless of the country on it (AOL-US, AOL-UK, AOL-DE, AOL-CA, etc…), that is just one field in the database. There is no functional difference between these accounts other than the price plan, business ID (country/sponsor) and customer care tools (CRIS/Merlin) managing it.
    As far as the assertion that customer care representatives have advance notice of such information is false. Customer care reps are usually the last to know, like customers. Intentional or not, there are many gatekeepers of information between the decision holder and the person helping customers. Oh, and since AOL outsources and offshores labor exclusively, I can almost guarantee there is no inside information given to contractors.
    Sources should be cited by tipsters — if not by name, than capacity of information and how it was acquired. A lot of AOL’s leadership often predicts the demise of competitive groups internally (Ad sales vs. publishers, product vs. programming, etc.) without any merit.
    I’m not necessarily saying this rumor is confirmed dead; I just have a strong doubt in it because it lacks credibility and the intent is to invoke fear that people’s accounts will be canceled — AOL/TWX is well beyond counting subscriptions.
    If anyone has any legit info on this, I offer anonymity and will verify rumors before publishing. Just e-mail me at joemanna at gmail.com.
    Thanks Marah for posting this and letting me contribute what I can. πŸ™‚
    ~Joe
    http://www.joemanna.com/blog/

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  2. Re: I hold doubt in this tip.
    Joe,
    “Sources should be cited by tipsters — if not by name, than capacity of information and how it was acquired.”
    Agreed. That’s why I dislike getting tips via anonymous commenters who don’t provide an email address so I can follow up before I post what they claimed. In the past I’ve tried asking anon commenters follow-up questions right in the comment section but since the don’t usually hang around to post replies I don’t bother anymore.
    Honestly, I think telling half a story and giving me no way to contact them for a follow-up is the height of rudeness and introduces more questions than it answers – but at the same time, as a blogger I feel compelled to report what I’m told on the down-low by anyone, even an anon, whether I can confirm it or not – since I figure if there’s any truth to what they say, someone will tell me soon enough, or else we’ll all find out at once when/if AOL finally breaks the news.
    No harm/no foul since I clearly worded the story to suggest it is unconfirmed/questionable.
    I think the reasons you gave for AOL not closing down International are solid in and of themselves, but I do question how much it costs to run the servers to get people’s email around the world in and out every day. Less email = less servers = lower costs to AOL. But frankly – at least until someone tells me otherwise – “cancelling” everyone’s overseas accounts feels a bit preposterous. Notice too, my tipster speaks out both sides of his mouth – one minute AOL is “cancelling” everyone’s overseas accounts – the next minute AOL is actually “migrating” them to UK and Australian web addresses. Crikey.
    I’ll take this with a grain of salt until Frank or someone else tells me a bit more.

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  3. Re: I hold doubt in this tip.

    …I do question how much it costs to run the servers to get people’s email around the world in and out every day…

    Obscenely cheap.
    Ficlets – cheap.
    Pictures – cheap.
    Xdrive – a bit higher than cheap, but cheap nonetheless.
    cirvaVie – cheap
    The only cost to build a product and service. As far as human resources, one just needs a DBA, Sysadmin, product mgr. These are all cheap and can be paid for in one week’s worth of ads.
    Again, getting back to my other comment about internal competition … it won’t happen. People are all too competitive to let product live lean. They gotta have their 8 figure budgets on products that bring in 7 figures.
    ~Joe

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