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?
I’ve been asked by an anonymous commenter for a list of people laid off at AOL. I don’t have access to such a list but anyone who cares to send me one will have my eternal thankfulness, not to mention the thankfulness of everyone else on the Web who’s just as curious as I am.
What I’ve done in the meantime is collect posts and comments scattered across Silicon Alley Insider and other websites about who got laid off and and organize them for everyone else’s benefit.
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.
A source for Henry Blodget at Silicon Alley Insider has confirmed 2,000 people at AOL are out of jobs. Nice to know Falco lays people off by email instead of in person; what a warm, personal touch he lends to the ordeal. Here’s a snippet:
“As a part of this realignment, tomorrow we begin a reduction in force that will, over the next couple of months, affect a total of about 2,000 people out of our worldwide workforce of 10,000.
Everyone impacted by this reduction deserves our thanks and respect for their contributions to the company. We will aid these individuals in their transition to new opportunities as much as possible, most importantly with what we believe are generous severance packages.”
The email was sent to everyone at AOL at 11 this morning and explains that because AOL wants to focus on their re-birth as an advertising platform, the employees are no longer needed.
I’m heartened to learn AOL is moving their headquarters next spring from Dulles Virginia, where they’ve been situated since 1985, to NY City, since I won’t be there.
The new location is a place I missed working at by just a hair some years ago: 770 Broadway, a floor above a company I almost transferred to about 12 years ago. I lived on Long Island at the time surrounded by farms and fields, and I liked the scenery, so I turned the move down, and wound up leaving New York, anyway. Now if I move back I know where not to uh…shop.
AOL’s air-brained Randy Falco claims moving to NY will send:
As reported in Silicon Alley Insider this week, Richard Greenfield, Managing Director of media investments for Pali Research, a fairly new addition to the brokerage firm Pali Capital, has some tough questions for Time Warner, making SAI writer Peter Kafka remark that “for understandable reasons, [they] are presumably no longer speaking to him”.
His toughest questions are for AOL, but his blog requires that you sign up with a corporate email address to read them. After I complained about it on the SAI blog, the requirement for a corporate email address was temporarily lifted, allowing me to create an account and copy Mr. Greenfield’s post for my personal records, but according to my email with him today, the corporate email address requirement is again in effect.
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.”
08-30-2006: AOL’s free 9.0 software fell into the bad graces of stopbadware.org, according to this report, which lists every complaint I had with it. Will these issues stop new users, even at the newbie level, from using it? Yes, if they have any sense at all. It stopped me. I have more planned on this topic soon.
Free domain names? Think again.
08-08-2006: Starting in September AOL is giving out free domain names with free storage space and up to 100 email addresses compatible with Outlook Express and other clients. The only catch is you won’t own the domain name; it’s AOL’s forever. I’ll update as details become clearer.