(AOL LLC., New York, NY, www.aol.com) A major online information service that provides Web surfing, email, instant messaging and access to a variety of content all integrated into the AOL Web browser for Windows and Mac. AOL's email and AIM instant messaging services are also available independently as is AOL's website, which users can customize for personal use.
When dial-up access to the Internet was king in the late 1990s and early 2000s, AOL became a major force with more than 30 million subscribers worldwide connecting via dial-up analog modems. Its integrated software was popular with first-time Internet users, who were signing up in droves. However, as broadband cable and DSL took hold, AOL's dial-up base declined significantly. By 2011, the number of users was roughly 90% lower than its high point.
Free in 2006
In August 2006, in addition to its paid dial-up service, AOL introduced free services for broadband users as well as people who used another ISP for dial-up. Advertiser supported, they included the AOL browser, email with custom domain name, instant messaging, online storage, access to AOL videos, photo and video sharing and more than 200 Internet radio channels. A paid, premium service included ID theft and PC insurance.
AOL was founded in 1985 as Quantum Computer Services by a handful of employees from the remains of Control Video Corporation (CVC), a company that sold Atari video games online. Quantum Computer offered games and other software to users with Commodore computers. In 1989, service was extended to the Mac and Apple II, and then to DOS users in 1991, when it changed its name to America Online (AOL). In 1995, the company acquired ANS, a network services provider, and two years later sold ANS to WorldCom in exchange for CompuServe's customer base, which WorldCom had recently acquired.
In 1999, AOL acquired Netscape and created an alliance with Sun to sell Netscape's Web products. Ironically, AOL's Web browser had actually been Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser and Netscape's primary competition.
In early 2001, AOL merged with Time Warner to become the largest online information and entertainment conglomerate in the world. For a while, the name of the company was AOL Time Warner; however, the merger never achieved the desired goals, and AOL was spun off in late 2009.
In the interim, AOL acquired Weblogs, Inc. in 2005, which included the Engadget tech blog. After the spin-off, in 2010, AOL added the competing TechCrunch blog to its lineup, and The Huffington Post news site the following year. In 2015, AOL was acquired by Verizon. See You've Got Mail
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Perhaps the largest CD-ROM marketing campaign ever, AOL distributed millions of introductory offers to every venue imaginable after the Internet went commercial in the mid-1990s. New members signed up in record numbers. CD-ROMs were distributed with PCs, with software, virtually anything. They even wound up in dry-ice-frozen packages of filet mignons.