Dissing AOL has long been a popular pastime for those with even a small measure of tech savviness. And it's not as though AOL doesn't deserve it. They've done some stupid and nasty things over the years. So they don't get much sympathy these days. Recently they've been sucking air big time. Thursday they announced that they're laying off 5,000.
Perhaps, though, the tide is turning.
They're now attempting to redefine themselves as a free service in competition with Google and Yahoo. And they do have some cool new tools to offer. For example, the new Netscape page is unique and definitely worth a look (Netscape, like AIM, is an AOL brand).
AOL has also started to offer 5 gb of free online storage.
Last evening I signed up for a free stateside AIM phone number so people can call me (They are the opposite of Skype, which charges for a phone number but offers free outgoing calls). The process was simple and the quality is decent enough. They didn't have any Turlock numbers so I used Kirk's San Franciso address and now I have a free San Francisco phone number.
Then I upgraded my AIM to their Triton Beta -- a nicer, less cluttered, more adult interface which supports the phone service -- and plug-ins.
And actually, a few days ago I established an AIM email account to deal with some of the AOL services I was trying out. Like the AIM Triton messaging tool the email is quite clean and feels good. They offer 2 gb of free email storage. It's not as powerful as Gmail but it is definitely a contender.
I suspect that I'd find a lot more new AOL stuff worth checking into if I had time to poke around some more. The point is that perhaps there is hope for AOL. It's as though suddenly the mental log jam which started piling up sometime in 1989 or so has been dynamited and all of these great new AOL ideas and products are rushing into the market.
AOL is certainly trying hard to make up for lots of lost time. Will they be able to do it?