This week it was announced that Verizon was going to purchase AOL for about $4.4 billion.
Now the very idea of anybody buying AOL is reminiscent of times when AOL was actually a relevant company.
Nowadays AOL is mostly just a site like Yahoo that has email, news and a search engine. However, reportedly, about 2 million people still use AOL as their dial-up service provider.
Yes I said dial-up.
Back in the good old days, millions of people used AOL as their dial-up service provider. Back then, you hooked up your telephone line to your computer and have it dial a local (hopefully) service number. If you were lucky, you could get through and enjoy AOL service in the slow lane. If you were not so lucky, you would either get a busy signal or a “no service” voice message from the phone company. Don’t even think about the time when another member of the family wanted to make a phone call and picked up another phone in the house and the connection was lost.
AOL service however was not the internet, but a portal to the services that the company offered. Of course, there were the endless 3 ½ discs and later CDs that AOL sent out in virtually every computer magazine and many other magazines under the sun. I still have hundreds of these discs packed away somewhere. Many of the 3 ½ discs could be reformatted and reused but in later years, they made them read only discs by having the write-protect tab removed. All these discs promised anywhere from say 10 free hours all the way up to 1000 free hours on AOL service. This would be great as long as you could get on the system.
There were alternatives such as Netscape, NetZero, Juno, and CompuServe. However, nobody could really beat AOL for amount of services available with the possible exception of CompuServe. The content from each of these portals were unique and usually not available on any other.
Then came the internet, where everything changed. All of the above named portals soon became obsolete.
All the information that anybody needed was available to everyone not just those who had one particular service. Because of this, faster modems were invented and broadband was born.
And so the cable companies wanted to hop on the broadband bandwagon as well.
Quickly companies like AOL began losing thousands of its users very quickly. The company looked desperate.
Then along came Time, Inc. to the rescue.
They were able to purchase the struggling portal and make it part of the Time Warner Cable division. I even signed up for one of their new preferred accounts for free that they were offering. However, to use the service, you had to load a special portal program which altered access to the internet and everything was funneled through that portal. I found the process difficult and stopped using it after a short time. I still have an email account with them, but have not used it in years.
When Time, Inc. decided to break up its company, Time Warner Cable basically disposed of their AOL division. They were now out on their own again, a lost soul with little future except for those who still relied on them for internet service.
Now we have Verizon, who want to purchase the company.
Is this really a good idea? While all the comments that I have heard is that this merger would create a way to bring video and advertising to mobile devices. As a Verizon user myself, I will say that more advertising is certainly not what I really want from the company. In fact, I want less advertising all around including my mobile devices, not more.
Certainly, I can see this as an advantage to Verizon, but I believe that AOL should really be killed off once and for all.
But how will this play out to regulators?
I believe that the regulators may actually approve this merger, but may question the dollar amount as being too high for what they get for their money. Overall, I see this a bad deal and should not happen.
Maybe Verizon will be purchasing AOL with thousands of free hour discs they accumulated over the years. If they need more, just ask.
I got probably over 100 of those free discs I can give them as down payment.