THE HOLY BOOK OF UNIVERSAL TRUTHS,
K. U. P.
(Kimball's Unauthorized Perversion)
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 About.com 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.
(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.