I thought you would enjoy this story of the worst tech products of
all time, which AOL topped the list:
QUOTE FROM THE STORY:
1. America Online (1989-2006)
How do we loathe AOL? Let us count the ways. Since America Online
emerged from the belly of a BBS called Quantum “PC-Link” in 1989,
users have suffered through awful software, inaccessible dial-up
numbers, rapacious marketing, in-your-face advertising, questionable
billing practices, inexcusably poor customer service, and enough spam
to last a lifetime. And all the while, AOL remained more expensive
than its major competitors. This lethal combination earned the
world’s biggest ISP the top spot on our list of bottom feeders.
AOL succeeded initially by targeting newbies, using brute-force
marketing techniques. In the 90s you couldn’t open a magazine (PC
World included) or your mailbox without an AOL disk falling out of
it. This carpet-bombing technique yielded big numbers: At its peak,
AOL claimed 34 million subscribers worldwide, though it never
revealed how many were just using up their free hours.
Once AOL had you in its clutches, escaping was notoriously difficult.
Several states sued the service, claiming that it continued to bill
customers after they had requested cancellation of their
subscriptions. In August 2005, AOL paid a $1.25 million fine to the
state of New York and agreed to change its cancellation policies–but
the agreement covered only people in New York.
Ultimately the Net itself–which AOL subscribers were finally able to
access in 1995– made the service’s shortcomings painfully obvious.
Prior to that, though AOL offered plenty of its own online content,
it walled off the greater Internet. Once people realized what content
was available elsewhere on the Net, they started wondering why they
were paying AOL. And as America moved to broadband, many left their
sluggish AOL accounts behind. AOL is now busy rebranding itself as a
content provider, not an access service.
Though America Online has shown some improvement lately–with better
browsers and e-mail tools, fewer obnoxious ads, scads of broadband
content, and innovative features such as parental controls–it has
never overcome the stigma of being the online service for people who
don’t know any better.
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