Tag Archives | AOL

Thoroughly Modern AIM


I use my AIM instant-messaging account every day, but I can’t remember the last time I used the AIM software. Instead, I use iChat, Meebo, Imo.IM, and other third-party clients that work on AIM’s network. AIM’s app itself has long felt like software that goes all the way back to 1997 and has been getting more bloated ever since. Which it has.

Until now. AOL is launching a preview of an all-new AIM today, and it has very little to do with the creaky old one except that it works on the same IM network. It’s so all-new that AOL even dumped its venerable “running man” stick-figure–who, let’s face it, screams “Old AOL that used to send us trial discs”–in favor of a hip little bot as its mascot.

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The Name’s the Same

Too many services from too many big Web sites have the same monikers.


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Editions by AOL: A Most Magazine-Like Magazine App for the iPad

I’m not sure what to call the category of news app–mostly, but not exclusively, seen on the iPad–that includes Flipboard, Float, News 360, Pulse News, Taptu, Zite, and other contenders. All I know is that it’s booming–and that AOL’s Editions, which debuted this week, is the newest example. (Also the first one I can think of from a big company rather than a spunky startup.)

Like Flipboard and its rivals, Editions pulls together news stories from all over, and then stitches them together into a personalized magazine-like digital publication. It takes the “magazine-like” part very seriously: Each edition of Editions has a cover (complete with mailing label) and sections that apply a halftone-style to photos to make them look like printed material.

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AIM AV: Absurdly Simple Video Chat

AV by AIM, the Web-based video chat service that TechCrunch wrote about when it was supposed to be an AOL secret, is now public. And it’s worth checking out. The service’s defining feature is how exceptionally easy it is to get going–you don’t need an account, and you don’t need any information about or from the people–there can be up to four of you–who you want to chat with. All you do is send them a bit.ly-like short URL that AV provides when you initiate a chat. They click on it, and you’re all in the same room.

(The biggest complication that I and one of my fellow chatters had was that AV requires a more recent version of Flash than the one we had.)

How’s the quality? Well, when I checked it out with two pals, we agreed that it’s “good enough.” Picture quality was not bad at all, but it was occasionally a bit out of sync with the audio. (I was on crummy hotel Wi-Fi, which probably didn’t help.) When we tried chatting using Apple’s iChat, the IM client built into OS X, we found that the video didn’t look as nice, but was better synchronized with the audio.

Since AV uses Flash, we wondered if that meant it would work on Android devices that support Flash. It doesn’t–or at least didn’t work on Acer’s Iconia Tab when one of my friends tried.

AV is free and doesn’t carry ads, and for now, at least, it really doesn’t have very much to do with AIM. You can send the short URL via AIM, and the whole thing probably works best if you’re IM buddies with whoever you want to chat with in the first place, since you need an alternative means of communication to arrange the AV session. It’s not going to replace more ambitious approaches to video communications, but it is fun.


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AOL Beta-Tests a Video Chat Service

AOL’s TechCrunch has leaked a link to AV, a still-unannounced, FaceTime-like easy video chat service from…AOL.


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You've Got Tedium! A History of AOL in Repetitive Headlines

In the ever-evolving world of technology, the eternal verities are few. We know that lovable Mario will always be synonymous with his employer, Nintendo. It’s certain that Apple will never release a mouse or other pointing device encumbered by two physical buttons. And there’s no question that as long as there’s an AOL, journalists will be writing AOL stories with “You’ve got…” references in the headlines.

I was reminded of this as I read articles about AOL’s acquisition of The Huffington Post. The headlines, of course, reference the “You’ve got mail!” sound clip, recorded by Elwood Edwards in 1989 and played countless billions of times since. That’s him in the photo to the right. (His dulcet tones don’t seem to be present in the current incarnation of Web-based AOL Mail, though–I get a mundane “ping!” when messages come in–anyone know whether the clip is still in use anywhere?)

I’m not sure when “You’ve got mail” and variations thereof became a byword for AOL, but the phrase and the company were symbiotic by 1998, when a certain Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan movie was released. You could practically do a history of the company told entirely in “You’ve got…” headlines.

In fact, let’s try, shall we? In reverse-chronological order, starting today…

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What is the "AOL Way?"

If you’re a writer with AOL, CEO Tim Armstrong is going to be expecting a whole heckuva lot more out of you real soon. Internal documents obtained by Silicon Alley Insider show that the company is asking its writers to nearly double their output while at the same time make sure they’re making their stories Google-bait.

Content farm? Sure sounds like it! The subject of content farms has gotten a lot of press lately, especially in light of Demand Media’s recent IPO, and decisions by sports-centric Bleacher Report to pay its writers and Yahoo’s purchase of Associated Content. Armstrong must see the value in gaming the search engines, something Demand has done to great effect and success.

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A History of AOL, as Told in Its Own Old Press Releases

Twenty-five years ago today, a company named Quantum Computer Services rose from the ashes of a failed startup called Control Video Corporation. It launched a dial-up online service for the Commodore 64 which eventually spread to Macs and PCs–one that became a lot better known after it was renamed America Online in 1989.

At various times to various people, AOL went on to be a symbol of meteoric business success, epic failure, unusually user-friendly software, remarkably customer-hostile marketing tactics, cutting-edge communications, flaky connections, and both the future and past of technology. In short, we’ve had a remarkably complicated relationship with this company over the past quarter century.
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AOL Becomes Aol.

As part of its retooling as it becomes an independent company (again!), AOL is unveiling a new logo. It dumps the triangle that has been part of the corporate identity since the company’s glory days, and spells the name “Aol”–upper and lower case, with a period. (It’s been a long time since AOL has called itself “America Online”–it no more uses that moniker than AT&T likes to be called American Telephone & Telegraph.)

For reasons I don’t quite understand, AOL (AOL.?) is making a big deal out of the notion of overlaying the new logo on an array of imagery (which, among other things, shows how hard it is to make typography read unless it’s a consistently light color on top of a consistently dark one, or vice versa).

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AOL Can Be Yours for a Cool $4.2 Billion

aol-main_FullIt’s a far cry from the $20 billion value that Google placed on AOL when it invested $1 billion for a five percent stake in the company in 2005. But $4.2 billion is what JP Morgan analyst Imran Khan now speculates the company is worth as Time Warner gets ready to spin the company off by the end of this year, close to a $4 billion valuation put on AOL by Pali Research analyst Rich Greenfield.

The company’s value has apparently declined since the beginning of the year: when Google wrote down it’s stake in the company in January, it placed a value of $5.5 billion on the company.

AOL doesn’t have much to blame other than itself: the company was slow to change with the times, and the transition from dial-up to broadband left the company without a major source of revenue. It’s try at selling advertising, while not a failure by any means, certainly did not fill that void.

Not everybody is down on AOL’s chances. Let us remember that the company still has a large traffic base to its properties, and Greenfield says that “there could be meaningful valuation upside – not to mention, the upside if M&A speculation surfaces” if AOL’s new CEO Tim Armstrong can play his cards right.

I’m no expert on mergers and acquisitions, but I don’t see the company being a merger target for anyone anytime soon. AOL’s still existing dial-up business is a costly one to take on, especially considering its all but certain that part of the company’s bottom line is all but set to disappear over the next few years.

Then again, stranger things have happened…


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