AOL: How America Gets Online!
Here’s a quiz: name one company that got its start as an online service called Gameline for Atari and grew so big that they soon adopted a motto claiming they were the Internet – or at least the only way most people could access it.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. In the 19 years since America Online took the country by storm with easy access to chat rooms, message boards and websites, and even introduced simple technology to allow the serfdom to mail letters to one another through the hourly-rated ether, their Kingdom has fallen to access issues, lousy customer service, internal mismanagement and fraud, and a tragic rebirth as something they never knew how to be in the first place and still can’t become after roughly 15 years of trying: an advertising conglomerate.
News of AOL ending support for their once-revered Netscape browser got me taking a year-end trip down Digg.com to review this year’s stories about Netscape: How their social news site was moved to Propeller.com and how Netscape.com would become a portal once again. I came to a startling conclusion: AOL is not just a collection of websites; it’s a sticky, tangled-up maze of redirects.
When you try to visit Netscape.com these days, your browser heads over to Netscape.AOL.com. Instead of a blue Navigator wheel in the tab, you get the AOL Evil Eye™. When you click a story link, your browser finds News.AOL.com – unless you click a link for a political story – then it rushes away to News.Netscape.com but gets flipped off to News.Propeller.com. For more of this torment, visit WOW.com; it gets amnesia now and thinks it’s at Wowinsider.com.
I’ve tried to find an explanation for these redirects, but I can’t. What are the chances crazy AOL programmers have threatened to quit if they can’t run the servers the way they want to – and redirect these sites just to piss off everyone else? Maybe they actually hate AOL and want all their traffic to die. (Hey guys, if you’re reading this, you’re doing a great job; page views are way down.) Here, I’ve drawn up a chart just to confuse you even more.
AOL is in a dreadful state of affairs with Randy Falco and Ron Grant (aka “Smithers & Burns”, a snarky insider reference to characters on The Simpsons) now running the show. I said last year that AOL was moving away from access into advertising, that Falco did not understand the Internet or any aspect of AOL’s business, and I always thought that tiny Ron Grant, (i.e. “Falco’s brain” or some such thing) was fairly clueless. I haven’t called it wrong yet, so love me or hate me, don’t say I never gave you a good (and early) warning.
Anyone who’s ever used AOL knows that they don’t let you choose how or what software is installed, that they won’t let you opt out of “advertising updates”, won’t let you cancel, and on top of that, that they literally won’t let you uninstall the software.
One perfect example of this stalkerish desire to keep you in their abusive grasp forever is this crap. To save you having to click through I’m reprinting the page for your viewing displeasure. All bolding/italicizing/all-capping is my own. This, by the way, is why I wrote a tutorial about how to uninstall the adapter, so you can actually get rid of the thing once you cancel AOL.
AOLers, say hello to Big Brother. Your privacy on the Web is over with. In stunning news this week after a backlash against AOL’s data leak of nearly a million user’s search records, AOL has acquired Tacoda, which uses technology to monitor client’s customers so you can see lots of “personalized” ads.
So how does Tacoda work? The way most adware and spyware programs do. They monitor every website you visit, whether it’s an AOL property or not. The information is collected and analyzed to see which sites you visit the most. Advertising is delivered based on the results. Say you visit a lot of websites about flowers; you’ll see lots of gardening ads. Every possible “interest” of yours is analyzed so you’ll see ads that lead you to buy from as many of AOL’s ad partners as possible.
HOT QUOTE (from the mouth of Ron Grant this week): “We’ve made some mistakes in the past.”
Yes, they sure did.
After Ron Grant, the president and COO of AOL, said AOL wants to start a “social network service” and improve AIM, he went on to say at the Goldman Sachs’ global Internet conference in Las Vegas:
“What, are you kidding me?” you say, shaking your head, but in light of changes made to Google’s ad displays, it’s as good a question as any.
I must start off by saying I despise any ruse used to fool, trick or deceive a person into clicking on an ad or visiting a website under any false or unverifiable circumstances. Now that AOL uses Google Adwords as part of their Search Marketplace program, these deceptive practices are used not only by Google but by AOL, too.
As most people know AOL Search has been “enhanced by” Google’s algorithms for a few years. I’m unhappy that a search engine that’s given me trouble, that has too much spam, that skews results in a way that’s more profitable for advertisers than it is for us (consumers who don’t necessarily want to buy anything) has been AOL’s first choice for results for a long time.
In news I might’ve missed over the holidays, Google rolled out a beta version of AdWords for AOL. The project should’ve stayed hush-hush, strictly on the down-low, but news of AdWords for AOL, part of their new “AOL Search Marketplace,” was “leaked” without AOL’s knowledge ahead of the formal announcement, which is pending.
Background: AOL struck their first deal with Google in 2002 to help them improve their search ranking. Google received a stake in AOL in exchange. AOL and Google renewed the agreement in December, 2005, for a much higher price. The AdWords project springs from that, according to AOL’s Blogging Stocks.
I check my stats all the time for search terms used to find my site and sometimes you people scare me. Case in point:
“remove aol email advertising software.” What a mouthful!
Yes, my site shows up at least twice on the first page of results, but so do a bunch of other sites that are no more relevant to the topic than mine is.
If you want to disable those ads find another email provider, then cancel AOL and uninstall their software.