This is Anti-AOL, so I’ll be brutally honest: AOLers aren’t the only ones glad to see Rondy go. Me, too! Years ago I had this sudden flicker of hope for AOL’s future – even if its past was in rags – when Jon Miller took over.
In light of AOL’s “Just cancel the account” fiasco this was what Miller had to say (sort of): “The hell with paid access – let’s become an ad-driven thingy and give away everything – content, software, and email – for free.” He knew AOL’s inability to give people good customer service, timely cancellations, and a decent software suite was entirely intractable, so he chose to move AOL on to greener pastures. I was happy for his arrival and about as excited for him as I could be, considering I’m jaded from years of disliking AOL.
For the average person surfing the Web, AOL didn’t stand out for a lot of well-publicized blunders this year, in stark contrast to their inability to stay out of the press last year for fiascos that would embarrass any company with a moral compass, much less a company that once was the Internet. All the same, AOL’s blunders this year were surprising for how clearly they showed AOL’s lack of integrity, dignity, and direction. Unlike last year I had no problem deciding how to order this list, so no coin-flipping this time…
Say what you want about AOL’s inability to catch up to the Internet these days, they sure can blow the playing field wide open for how layoffs are handled. How about employing managers who are so burnt up over how badly AOL treats them that they willingly leak details of the who, what, when and why of October’s layoffs to Silicon Valley Insider, making a previously shamed Henry Blodget of former stock analysis fame once more well-known and well-liked among industry insiders of all stripes?
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.
11-22-2006: CNN did a bad thing in the “eyes” of search engine spiders, Google Pidgeon Rank™ and other indices of web page spamiliciousness: they duped their own content about Yahoo! acquiring AOL, then changed the date for it. I’m a bit of a prig, so before I even knew what was happening, my keyboard was tapping out comments to blogs.marketwatch.com (page no longer exists). While I’m no fan of Google, why let a site get penalized for what they warn webmasters not to do in Webmaster Guidelines?
“…the “Quality Guidelines”…outline some of the illicit practices that may lead to a site being removed entirely from the Google index.”
One practice you should avoid:
“Don’t create multiple pages, sub-domains, or domains with substantially duplicate content.”