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Why You Shouldn't Be Using AOL

Reader rating: 8 out of 10


Still using AOL?

Computertim Technologies' Founder and President, Tim Rooney, sounds off and gives you the truth on AOL.

Why You Shouldn't Be Using AOL

By Tim Rooney, Founder, President - Computertim Technologies

Here's the secret: with AOL, you'll never experience the real Internet.

I remember using some of the first few versions of AOL, and at the time, it was about as good as the Internet got. But during the next several years, the Internet changed dramatically, yet AOL's service stayed almost the same. Version after version, the AOL client software still remains basically the same: crowded and limited.

So you might be thinking: "If AOL is such a terrible service, why is it #1?" AOL is #1 because they entered the market at the right time. When they originally introduced the first version of AOL, that was about as good as you could get with the Internet. AOL captured many customers who thought it was such a great service, and never innovated to make the user experience better as the Internet advanced.

AOL locks you within the boundaries of the main window, and crowds the window with excessive AOL branding and advertising. People really need to think about this: you're paying a fairly expensive monthly fee for an Internet service, yet you're still being pushed even more ads for AOL services and sites. Isn't that monthly fee better spent at a higher-quality ISP?

When I ask many people why they use AOL, they usually say something along the lines of "I like how everything is kept together in one place for me." That's not a valid argument with me however, as there are other options to "keep everything together" without using AOL. If you like how AOL consolidates all of your services (web, E-mail, instant messaging), an easy way to do this without AOL is to download MSN Explorer. The only advertising you will see in the actual browser software is a small ad to the left of the screen. MSN Explorer is free software, based on the Microsoft Internet Explorer browser, and consolidates the web, E-mail, and instant messaging into one software program. MSN Explorer allows you to pick among the dozens of real ISPs out there instead of AOL.

Another point I think is important to make: AOL Instant Messenger is available as a separate, free download. If you use AOL Instant Messenger with AOL and are afraid that you'll lose communication with buddies if your discontinue use of AOL, you can easily download AOL Instant Messenger separately, and chat as normally would, without the need of the AOL service itself.

Another problem with AOL is its E-mail service. Using AOL Mail is a bit like riding a bike instead of driving a Mercedes. After one week, read and sent messages are deleted automatically, without your confirmation. While you can still store E-mail by moving it to the Personal File Cabinet, what a hassle. A typical ISP has your mail download on to your computer, and you do what you want with it. AOL Mail is also very feature-limited, and only the master account is allowed to access mail filters. And think about this: internally, AOL Time Warner divisions don't even use AOL Mail technology themselves, as the system had problems handling simple daily business tasks.

Lastly, one of the most obvious problems with AOL is speed and reliability. How many times has your dial-up connection been dropped with AOL? This happens because AOL's network is far to overcrowded, and can't handle the volume of traffic. And while you may be connected with a good connection to AOL, server and backend slowdowns occur, because the network is overloaded, and makes your browsing experience slow.

If you use AOL, I suggest that you spend your money elsewhere. $23.90 per month for unlimited access (price correct at publication time), can provide you with high quality Internet access with a regular ISP. And if you'd like to go beyond dial-up, consider Cable or DSL access for a slightly higher fee.

AOL has no excuse. They've had years to bring their service up-to-date, make it user-friendly, and useful, yet they seem to take their annual revenue much more seriously than their customers' browsing experience. Maybe by version 8000.0 they'll get the picture.

Do I want 1000 hours of AOL free? No, thanks.

Have comments on this article? Send them directly to Tim Rooney.

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