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AOL Inc.

legal form Corporation
founding 1985
Seat New York City , New York United States
United StatesUnited States 
management Tim Armstrong ( CEO )
Number of employees 4,500 (December 31, 2014)
sales 2,527,000,000 US dollars (2014)
Branch media

AOL , formerly America Online , is a US media group based in New York City and a subsidiary of Verizon Communications . In 2000, AOL was the largest Internet service provider in the world with 30 million paying members . In Germany, the company's claim at that time was "AOL - Alles OnLine".



The company was founded in 1985 in Dulles , Virginia by Jim Kimsey as Quantum Computer Services out of the remnants of Control Video Corporation (CVC), founded in 1983 and providing online service for the Atari 2600 . The first product, Quantum Link (Q-Link), was a graphic online service for American users of the Commodore 64 and 128 . In May 1988, Apple and Quantum released AppleLink Personal Edition for Apple II and Macintosh . In August 1988, the PC-Link service for IBM PC-compatible computers followed in cooperation with Tandy . After the separation from Apple in October 1989, the name was changed to America Online .

Around 1990 - shortly before the start of the World Wide Web - several American online providers were competing; the largest was the online pioneer CompuServe . In contrast to the aging CompuServe with its sparse user interface, AOL approached a new generation of users and offered appealing, colorful software for accessing its network. In 1991 Steve Case, who was CVC's Marketing Director, succeeded Kimsey as CEO. The AOL online service first appeared in the same year for MS-DOS and a year later for Windows . Neverwinter Nights, the first graphic MMORPG , was published for AOL DOS . In 1996 AOL's payment model was switched from hourly fees to a monthly flat rate.

The Kodak photo company started a service in the summer of 1998, with which AOL customers could hand in their exposed films in shops and a little later call up the digitized photos via their AOL account. With the start of the World Wide Web in 1993, a new network culture emerged. The early adopters got rid of the ties to centralized portals like AOL and used the Internet via web browsers . At the time, AOL was considered a safe haven and Netscape Communications Corporation was the greatest challenge. The New York Times wrote in 1998 that America Online was "universally recognized as a protection for tech novices who are not yet ready for the big wide world of the Web."

In 1997 AOL took over the ore competitor CompuServe and in 1998 Netscape as well as that of the Israeli company Mirabilis Ltd. developed chat program ICQ .

America Online's Downfall: Number of US Customers Between 2001 and 2009

At the height of its popularity in the first half of the 2000s, AOL was the largest Internet provider with over 30 million customers worldwide. In 2000, AOL merged with Time Warner and then traded as AOL Time Warner. In 2003 the company deleted the abbreviation AOL from the company name. At the end of 2005, Google Inc. got a billion dollar (833 million euros) at AOL. On April 3, 2006, America Online Inc. officially renamed itself AOL LLC. around. The original mission, which the name was supposed to express, to bring America online, has long been fulfilled, said AOL boss Jon Miller.

On July 8, 2009, Time Warner bought back the shares from Google in order to bring AOL to the stock exchange in a further step. In mid-2009, the new CEO, Tim Armstrong, announced that he wanted the company to go public by the end of the year. AOL wanted to produce content itself and market graphic online advertising. On November 19, 2009, the company announced plans to cut 2,500 jobs, equivalent to a third of the workforce, with the aim of saving US $ 300 million, including on the basis of layoffs. As part of these restructuring measures, AOL closed several European offices, including all four German offices. This affected a total of 140 jobs in Germany. In December 2009, Time Warner separated from AOL. For the first time on December 10, 2009, AOL was traded again as an independent company on the New York Stock Exchange.

In April 2010, AOL sold the ICQ instant messenger for $ 187.5 million to the Russian investment company Digital Sky Technologies .

In February 2011, AOL bought The Huffington Post and brought all of the company's journalistic divisions together under the new AOL Huffington Post Media Group . This expanded the business model, as the Huffington Post had been systematically buying well-known journalists since around 2010 in order to strive for the role of an important journalistic medium.

On August 7, 2013, the purchase of the online video advertising company for $ 405 million was announced.

On May 12, 2015, it was announced that Verizon plans to acquire AOL for $ 4.4 billion. On June 23, 2015, Verizon completed the acquisition.

On April 3, 2017, Verizon announced that it had acquired the Yahoo! and AOL wants to merge. About it is from Yahoo! and AOL created the Oath brand, known as Verizon Media since 2019 .

AOL Germany

The German branch was founded in 1995 as a joint venture of Bertelsmann AG founded and AOL Europe and has its headquarters in Hamburg , where management and editorial staff are located. The vast majority of the approximately 1,200 employees worked in the call centers in Saarbrücken , Duisburg , Dessau , Erfurt , Görlitz , Düsseldorf , Essen and Frankfurt (Oder) . The locations in Dessau, Erfurt, Görlitz, Düsseldorf, Essen and Frankfurt (Oder) were operated by external service providers. The online service AOL Germany achieved an operating profit of around twelve million euros for the first time in the 2003 financial year, which doubled in 2005 compared to the previous year. Before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization ( EBITDA ), the group achieved earnings of around 80 million euros (38 million in 2004). In Germany, AOL reached around five million people per month with its AOL, CompuServe and Netscape Internet Service brands (as of 2007).

On March 1, 2007, AOL sold its Internet access business with all call centers in Germany to HanseNet . Until April 2008, Torsten Ahlers was the managing director of AOL Deutschland Medien GmbH , which was founded in 2006 and continues to operate the so-called audience business such as AOL portals, AOL access software and the free AOL e-mail service. His successor was Andreas Demuth, who left the company on November 30, 2009. Michael Edward Nolan Jr. was Managing Director from December 13, 2011, and Amanda L. Reid since October 29, 2015.

Products and business model

The company once defined the World Wide Web for millions of people. In the early years, the Americans made their income mainly from dial-up connections via modem . For years, floppy disks and CDs containing the AOL access software were included with many editions of computer magazines. 26.7 million customers came to the Internet in 2002 via AOL. In Germany, AOL was Deutsche Telekom's main competitor . The advance of DSL connections and flat rates let this income shrink rapidly and brought AOL high losses. AOL tried to compensate for this by enclosing the advertising CD-ROMs with the access software not only for computer magazines, but also for daily newspapers and magazines; omnipresent the CDs were as expenses in supermarkets, department stores, movie theaters etc., as well as direct mail bearing / Leaflet . This aggressive advertisement has been found extremely annoying by many people. An American then started the No More AOL CDs protest . His goal: He wanted to collect a million AOL promotional CDs and then dump them by truck in front of the AOL headquarters. But it did not come to that: When AOL found out about the protest, they ended the CD campaign.

The marketing service provider Adtech has been part of AOL since 2007 . As of October 31, 2008, AOL closed the "Hometown" pages with the Internet pages of its users.

In 2008, AOL came fifth in the USA with 7.5 million customers. In 2010, the proportion of those AOL USA customers who dial in using the old modem method was still astonishingly high at 5 million.

Other well-known products from AOL are or were u. a. AIM , ICQ (from 1998 to 2010), Winamp (from 1999 to 2014) and SHOUTcast (from 1999 to 2014).

Since Tim Armstrong was hired as CEO of AOL in 2009, AOL's business model has shifted towards a content farm . Since 2010, the company's core business has been to have freelancers produce huge amounts of texts on currently sought-after topics as cheaply as possible, which are then called up as often as possible through excessive use of search engine optimization methods and thus generate advertising income. In addition to its main domain and the project, AOL uses around 75 special-interest pages under the umbrella of the subsidiary MediaGlow for publication .

With the takeover of the Huffington Post in early 2011, AOL is striving to return to the journalistic content market. At the end of 2011 there were reports of conflicts and frictional losses between the two former companies and their contrary business models. This is true both within the former Huffington Post, where the original reports on stories from other media, prepared by unpaid bloggers, contrast with the articles by highly paid and award-winning journalists who were hired to enhance the Huffington Post. On the other hand, the successful, if not yet consolidated, Huffington Post culture stands against the content farm mentality that AOL has built with great effort.

In autumn 2012, AOL launched a service called Alto , with which users can combine several e-mail inboxes under a uniform interface. Contacts, messages and attachments are in so-called stacks ( stacks organized) to help emails to organize particularly efficient and edit. In addition to AOL Mail, AOL Alto also supports Yahoo Mail , Gmail and Apple iCloud and achieved a wide reception in the media, as it was the first service in several years that AOL presented under its own direction.

From 2009 to the beginning of 2014, AOL operated under the name Patch up to 1,300 online platforms for cities and regions in the USA, on which around 1,000 employees produced local journalism at a maximum . In August 2013, the project was reduced to 900 platforms and 500 editors, at the beginning of 2014 it was sold to the investor HaleGlobal . Hale is expected to continue only around 250 pages.


For years, AOL relied on proprietary software for dialing into the Internet , without which it was not possible to use AOL. The first AOL dial-in software for the PC appeared around 1990 for the GUI GeoWorks Ensemble (also known as " PC / GEOS "), as the company history of AOL was closely linked to GEOS - among other things due to the development of "Quantum Link" for the Home computer C64 . AOL was the first company in the world to bring mobile Internet dial-up to the market for the Zoomer, one of the world's first PDAs . For years, after Microsoft Windows had consolidated its market domination , there was only dial-up software for the Microsoft Windows and MacOS operating systems. Around the year 2000 this changed and the possibility was added to access his e-mails via the standardized IMAP protocol , so that customers had a wide range of e-mail programs at their disposal, for example Microsoft Outlook and Netscape . In August 2003, at the same time as the launch of AOL 8.0, it became possible to go online using the standardized point-to-point protocol . This made it possible to use routers with AOL and to use Linux or the "dial-up network" included in Windows for dial-in. The requirement to use the AOL client was thus abolished.

AOL desktop software

Originally, AOL software was required to dial into the Internet (typically via a modem) and to establish a connection to a server. The AOL software consisted of an integrated browser and dial-in software, into which the user only had to enter his AOL password after installation. The connection was then established. Due to aggressive advertising , free AOL CDs were included in countless magazines at the end of the 1990s, cf. in addition No More AOL CDs . These were linked to passwords that allowed free internet use via the AOL software for a few hours. After the free hours had expired, the dial-in costs increased extremely.

Until the mid-1990s, AOL did not have an Internet address that could be accessed via a normal browser . Unlike the competition, AOL instead used its customer loyalty via the desktop software and delivered well-prepared, visually appealing content via the AOL software with download access to its own FTP server. The special technical features included the in-house programming language FDO (Form Definition Operator), AOL's own ART image format and the “Xdrive” online memory .

Today, proprietary software is no longer required for previously central functions (chat, parental controls, Usenet access, FTP upload, etc.); you can do this with apps , directly in the browser or with dedicated tools such as email clients. AOL discontinued some modules of the desktop software over the years; Xdrive was no longer offered after January 12, 2009, Usenet access ended in February 2005 (see also Eternal September ).


In May 2006, PCWorld magazine declared AOL the worst technical product of all time. The service is overpriced, useless, aggressive in advertising and customer loyalty and has "never overcome the stigma of being the online service for people who do not know better".

At the end of August 2006, the US version of AOL 9.0 was classified as "badware" by the American Stop Badware Coalition . Badware includes spyware , malware, and fraudulent adware that companies use to spy on online behavior. Both Internet Explorer and the Windows taskbar are added, without being asked, to non-removable additions.

See also

Web links

Commons : AOL  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

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