When Jason Calacanis (former GM of Netscape who morphed it into a social news site last summer) quit AOL, I wrote about how I hoped that in his wake AOL would change Netscape back into what it was: a halfway decent (if low-brow) portal. Breaking news announces that they’ll finally do just that next week. From the AP article (9-22-2207: it’s now deleted):
So said Steve Rubel, during a recent talk with Jason Calacanis. I found a podcast on Jason Calacanis’ blog a few weeks ago in which him and Steve almost certainly discussed me, though they didn’t mention my name. In it Jason rehashes the comments (page no longer exists) we once exchanged about why I hate AOL. Except he lies or else has a bad memory, saying I “love” Netscape when in fact I hate it, and even claims I’ve “calmed down” about AOL completely thanks to our interaction. Nothing is further from the truth. (Area of detail is at 30:00 to 32:00, if you’re interested).
I replied to the podcast on his web page (see the first link above). I said I haven’t changed and corrected him about my feelings for Netscape, then mentioned another anti-AOL blogger who has calmed down recently, and rather inexplicably, since I can’t find comments from him on her blog.
I want to clear up a few things now that people are linking to that podcast…
It was a stunningly bad year for the company I love to hate, but I couldn’t decide which stories should make the number one and two slots so I flipped a coin. Read on and let me know what you think.
After paying almost $27 million to satisfy four attorney generals in the Northeast and Midwest who sued AOL for their anti-cancellation policies between 2003 and 2006, you’d think they’d change their evil ways, since they were sued for the same thing by 44 states back in 1998, and their reputation was starting to dim thanks to their growing infamy, but that wasn’t the case.
It was on the down-low that they kept the same rewards system and tactics in place so people were surprised to learn that Jon, a call rep for AOL, gleefully violated every agreement AOL has struck in the United States since 1998 with Vinnie Ferrari, who got his 15 minutes of fame exposing them for the shameful greed they still succumb to. Vinnie single-handedly made the story an overnight sensation when he posted it on his website (which he claims gets over 500,000 hits a week) and simultaneously submitted it to The Consumerist, SlashDot and Digg, which caused his website to go offline for three days because his servers couldn’t handle the traffic.
12-13-2006: I like Vallywag. You know the blurb on their site? The one that goes:
You people in Silicon Valley are far too busy changing the world to care about sex, greed and hypocrisy.
Well, count me out. I’m never too busy to catch up on all the latest greed and hypocrisy coming out of AOL, and I don’t live in Silicon Valley, either, so I’m an easily attainable demographic. If you add in Jason Calacanis just for fun (read: because he’s an idiot) I can barely tear myself away.
Fortune Magazine says Time Warner, their parent company, is in talks with Yahoo! to buy AOL. A source at TW denies it, but Yahoo! sources say it’s true. Yahoo! lost their chance last year after AOL inked a deal to give Google 5% of revenue in return for ads and search optimization that AOL lacks over dynamically linked pages and other shortcomings. They haven’t made the how-to-cancel page much easier to find, either.
No Ads on Wikipedia, For Now … AOL Sells Call Centers; Others to Close
10-28-2006: Jason Calacanis, who runs Netscape for AOL and thinks he can wave his Magic Money Wand and buy the world, and even buy your humble author (page no longer exists ), tried to buy Wikipedia last week. He claims by not letting AOL put leaderboards on Wiki pages, they’ll lose ad revenue to the tune of $100 million a year. “Jimbo” Wales rolled Jason’s offer around, even asking members what they’d do with that money. Then in a stunning about-face he told Jason “No,” and was applauded for not letting AOL’s sponsorship control Wikipedia.
10-14-2006: The Consumerist says AOL’s laying off 1,400 call reps “trained to trick you into not canceling your AOL account,” when they close their Albuquerque, NM, and Tucson, AZ centers and sell their Ogden, UT call center “in mid-December, just in time for Christmas.” Wow, not even an AOL-branded lump of coal for brainwashing us into thinking we must have it: “Free anti-virus software! Parental controls! Keywords! (give me a f***ing break) Ads, ads, more ads, AIM, chat rooms!” Oh wait, maybe they don’t say all that…The Consumerist is clucking unhappily that the Ogden center’s been sold to a company that will hang onto every AOL employee except John, but it’s quite common for AOL to outsource them. Contract workers can’t be much worse, I promise you.