Don’t forget to let me know what you use instead of AOL in the comments!
The question, “What do you use instead of AOL?” has been put to me from time to time. I never answer it, wanting to appear unbiased, but I always promise to discuss it someday, then I never do. But what I use instead of AOL has to be one of the easiest posts I can write, so without ado…
“How do you connect to the Web without AOL?”
I don’t know. How does anyone do that?
OK, just kidding.
First, there was PeoplePC…
After I canceled AOL, I had the misfortune of thinking that using PeoplePC (it was dirt-cheap: $4.95 a month) was a good idea. It wasn’t. The software was almost as flaky as Netscape’s, which I also used after I canceled AOL. I spent more time posting on message boards about PeoplePC than I did using it.
Finally I moved onto broadband with my first high-speed ISP, Earthlink. I got a too-good-to-be-true deal on a 7Mbps down package, so I threatened to cancel Earthlink every 6 months, forcing them to renew me at the same price. And they did. For almost 2 years.
One day the nice lady who always renewed my Earthlink account said, “So cancel.” I said, “What? You don’t want to lose me as a customer, do you?” She said, “No, but we can’t renew you at this price anymore.” So I popped my PeoplePC disc in and went broadband shopping.
Thanks to a Brighthouse monopoly, my only choices were Earthlink and Roadrunner, so I did the unthinkable and took the AOL Roadrunner package. The service was actually good, and there was no software to install, but it made me more uncomfortable than anything else has. I mean, I ran an anti-AOL blog from an AOL connection…
I used this ISP on and off for the last few years. This was the fastest connection I ever had. I was staying with my friend when I last had it and I don’t know exactly which package he signed up for, but it was expensive ($150 a month, I think) and we could download something like a terabyte a second. Seriously, an entire 1GB file was done in under 5 seconds. It was as close to heavenly as ISPs get.
…and now, Embarq DSL.
This is the connection at my new house. I could’ve signed up with Brighthouse but the blogging-from-the-enemy’s-connection idea still gives me the creeps. Don’t use DSL if you have better choices. I get 1Mbps down but you’d never know it by page loads (though DSL does play video smoothly, page loads are slow and downloads take the high-speed version of “forever”). 1Mbps down on DSL != 1Mbps down on broadband…trust me.
“How do you browse the Web without AOL?”
I don’t. How do you think I know how to uninstall every version of AOL ever made?
OK, I’m just kidding, again.
The first browser I used after I quit AOL was Firefox. I couldn’t stand it (that was back in its dinky v.1.8 days – it was all hype and no browser) so I switched to Avant. That was the goofiest browser I ever used, but I didn’t think so for the year or two that I used it. I thought the developer was a godlike genius and that Avant would one day rule the Earth. Then I found out it was an IE shell and I was like, “What?”
I hated IE!
So I switched to the dev’s other browser, the open-source, Gecko-driven Orca and with that, the dev’s godlikeness was restored. But Orca was buggy and crashed like a drunk. Then Firefox 2.0 came out; within a few months Orca was blowing the dust from my departure out of it’s program files, never to return.
I know people still use browsers like Avant – and I think that’s better than using AOL, but once you’ve used Firefox, you’ll never go back to IE shells or stick with any browser that’s “inferior” to the Firefox experience.
That includes newer browsers like Chrome and Opera. While they both have good features, like speed, Firefox is the only browser out there that’s both fast and completely customizable.
“How do you find the Web without AOL?”
That’s actually a good question. Being a former point-and-click AOL user, I like very easy, almost automated browsing, so I use the Firefox Speed Dial add-on to embed my favorite websites into my Firefox home page, then I use LastPass to sign into them.
“Do you use AOL webmail?”
I have an AOL account at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I invite you to spam it, but it’s just there for testing purposes. Which reminds me, if you’ve used AOL for years, there’s no reason not to keep doing so from the webmail interface.
The AOL Mail RIA is what webmail for every AOL user might look like some day; because the interface doesn’t make me want to stab my eyes out, it’s what I’d suggest you use for your AOL webmail.
“Do you still use Outlook or Outlook Express?”
I stopped using Outlook 2 years ago. It’s a nice way to quickly collect email and view it offline, but it doesn’t fit my needs, so these days I read and write email online using Yahoo! and Hotmail.
To pull my email into one place, I use threadsy (and yes, I can probably hook you up with an invite; just ask me in the comments). It’s neat, but it doesn’t always mark messages as read or deleted on the originating email servers, so I’m not quite sold on it.
In the meantime, I keep the Yahoo and Hotmail sign-in pages embedded in my Speed Dial page for easy access.
How have you managed without AOL? I’ll be glad to hear it; just let me know in the comments.