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The Xenophile Historian

K. U. P.

(Kimball's Unauthorized Perversion)

Friends Don't Let Friends Use AOL

Some ISPs are definitely better at filtering out spam than others. America Online is the worst, despite their claims about being a family-friendly ISP. On the few occasions that I got to look in the inbox of an AOL user, there were always more than a hundred messages waiting, most of them nothing but junk. If you have AOL and you really want to stop the spam, I recommend that you switch to another ISP. Don't worry, it's not as painful as you might think to change an e-mail address. Here are the other reasons why I don't like AOL:

1. Why should I pay so much and get so little? For $23.95 a month, the AOL user gets lousy customer service, and a connection slowed down by ads, pesky popup windows, and software that is not fully compatible with the computer's operating system. Is it really worth the hassle to have an AOL guide hold your hand as you surf the Web? Heck, my next-door neighbor uses a dial-up service that only costs $10 per month.

2. For a long time I have gotten the impression that AOL is for people who don't know what they're doing online. Therefore, they ought to switch when they're no longer newbies. AOL seems to focus most of its marketing on those who haven't used another ISP yet. Ever notice how some AOL users talk about AOL vs. the Internet, as if the rest of cyberspace is nothing but a wasteland? Well, I've spent my whole online existence in "the wild," and while some of it is awful, it's just like a bad neighborhood in real life; once you know where the bad places are, you learn to avoid them. As for the sense of community, you don't have to be an AOL user to find groups of nice people; it just takes longer when you're looking on your own. A bulletin board, like the forums, is a good place to start.

At the moment I can only think of two intelligent AOL users I have met, that were delightful to correspond with. One of them lives in Inner Mongolia, so he probably can't find a better ISP to use.

why people love AOL

3. AOL-Time Warner has a political agenda. I saw this coming when AOL bought the sleaziest major corporation in America. Lately I've read a few commentaries talking about the Internet becoming a battleground between AOL-Time Warner and Microsoft. If I have to choose sides I will go with Microsoft. Microsoft's policy of putting their stuff on all new PCs is questionable at best, but Bill Gates is the lesser of two evils; he only wants your money, while AOL-Time Warner wants your money and your soul. Read more about this in the "Slaying the AOL Monster" link below.

(Update, June 2005: I just read an article from Wired News entitled "Beware the Google Threat." The aforementioned battleground no longer has just two participants. Google's software and online services have become so popular that they're giving Microsoft a serious run for the money, and if the search engine giant ever becomes an ISP, it will challenge AOL, too.)

4. AOL's practice of carpeting the world with CDs is anti-environment. You can only use those things once in any given computer, and I understand they're not easy to recycle.

5. AOL's behavior in the browser wars. In 1999, when it became clear that Microsoft was going to make the world use Internet Explorer, AOL bought Netscape. At the time I thought this would give Netscape a new lease on life. Instead, they let Netscape languish, and gave their users an inferior version of IE. I seldom used Netscape myself, but I think it deserved better.

Rather than turn this into another "AOL Sucks" page, I'll finish with some links to pages from folks who have more to say on the subject than I do.

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