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America Online is paying the price for falling behind in the Internet revolution. According to this morning's Wall Street Journal, AOL is considering forgoing billions in subscription revenue by allowing households with their own broadband connections to access the service for free.
AOL Wants to Be Free [news.moneycentral.msn.com]
Absolutely, but perhaps that kind of thing should be done as an application, a sort of super-browser, but not an entire network.
It could let people train on tasks the app itself presents at a learning curve determined by the user, then move onto specially designed websites created by the app's designers (a sort of "training wheels" phase), before finally allowing people out onto the real internet.
Even if the majority of us here are comfortable using firefox / IE and the concept of browsing comes as second nature, having the content you need and email all under one umbrella IMO still has its appeal to amateurs.
Even if that's true (and I'm not at all sure that it is), why AOL? Why not Yahoo or MSN or some other portal? What's special about AOL these days? Why shouldn't we expect the AOL to brand fade away like Excite and other Internet brands that have been consigned to The Wayback Machine?
Users don't have to be Web-savvy to use browsers and find their way around the Web. One of the biggest cruising sites, for example, made its debut on AOL in 1995 and expanded to the Web in 2000. I don't know how much (if any) of its traffic originates on AOL these days, but its Web site has a huge and active community of cruisers, most of whom are of the grey-haired or no-haired generation.
Times change. AOL is the Polaroid, Sunbeam, or LIFE Magazine of the online world. It had a good run, but pretty soon it will just be one of yesterday's brands that lives on in a new and diminished incarnation.