Readers tipped me off today that something is wrong with AOL’s Message Boards: in fact, most of them are missing. The UK Message Boards were shut down with no warning whatsoever.* (See the end of this post for my UK boards disclaimer) Many UK chat rooms were also shut down. No one knows where the US Message Boards have gone. When you click on the “Is this the last board left?” topic which is found one-off from AOL’s Message Board home page you’re taken to…I kid you not…Yahoo!, where a board exists for AOL members to wonder aloud where AOL’s message boards went. It’s a bizarre situation.
After I got done today responding to Joe Manna on this issue, I started answering my email for the first time in weeks, and one of my reader’s questions about AOL’s email storage policies brought me to Wikipedia’s page on AOL. That wouldn’t normally reveal the answer to something going on at AOL that it seems nobody has the answer for, but lo and behold the page was updated recently (run-on paragraphs abound; the italicized swath was italicized by me):
Haven’t had time to delve too deeply into this but throughout December I continued to receive tips that AOL is canceling any free AOL account created “overseas”. Here’s the most recent tip (end of December-ish):
My (free webmail) AOL account has been cancelled. I don’t know why, there was no warning or explanation. I have lodged queries with Yedda.com and see that several other people (who all appear to be in Australia) have the same problem. No response has been received at Yedda.com.
Checking xdrive.com and bluestring.com tonight I saw that AOL has extended the shutdown deadlines by 12 days on both sites. That means you now have until Jan. 12th to get your files before AOL deletes them. In light of AOL’s botched soft-closing of Hometown and AOL Journals [item #5], which was handled so badly that many users claimed they never even received an email about it, and thus did not know they had to retrieve their files by a certain date or else lose them forever, AOL is slowing down the remaining closings to give people more time to find out what’s going on. Unfortunately (and rather inexplicably), AOL did not extend the deadline on the closings of AOL UnCut (Dec. 18th) nor AOL Pictures (Dec. 31st), so if you haven’t retrieved your videos and pictures by now, you’re most likely out of luck.
Instructions on how to retrieve your files are included in the following related post: AOL closing down Xdrive, BlueString and AOL Pictures by Dec. 31st..
This is interesting: Joe Manna happened to catch a comment on the PeopleConnection blog from the Ficlets creator, Kevin Lawver, a long-time AOLer who left the company in May. Kevin wrote about Ficlets:
I knew this was coming, I just didn’t know the day. I tried, with the help of some great people, to get AOL to donate ficlets to a non-profit, with no luck. I asked them just to give it to me outright since I invented it and built it with the help of some spectacular developers and designers. All of this has gone nowhere.
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).
Updated 12-7-08 with more information for Ficlets users and 1-13-09 with new information on importing Circavie timelines to Dipity.
OK, I’ll admit it: I feel bad for my readers. Some of them are already feeling down over the loss of their small but beloved community and their old photo, video and storage sites. Breaking more bad news for them all the time – which is all I do anymore – is not fun for me, either.
The title of the post was inspired by Twitter’s mringlein, who does not give the phrase “on fire” too pleasant a connotation.
Last updated 12-7-08 with more information on active AOL FTP servers via Joe Manna at DygiScape.
Today Joe at taimantis.com is pointing us to a page he put up for AOL Hometown users who forgot to download their files by Oct. 31st, the day AOL shut down both AOL Hometown and AOL Journals. He also forgot to download his Hometown files by Oct. 31st. When he finally remembered he went to grab them and they were still there – AOL did not delete them. He thinks everyone else who missed the Oct. 31st deadline can still grab their files, too and he even gives you quick, easy steps on how to do it.
AOL is shutting down its user-generated video site, originally known as AOL UnCut but now known as “AOL Video Uploads”, on Dec. 18th. The usual warning follows (this should be old hat to returning visitors): If you don’t download all of the videos you uploaded to AOL by Dec. 17th, they will be deleted – poof! – gone – by that night.