We've come a long way in a short time, but AOL (etc) deserve to be remembered for inspiring what was possible, even if they ultimately failed in the execution.
Society has changed so that it is now acceptable, technology has improved so it is quicker to look those things up but the article wasn't mocking the idea that those things were online.
And for all its fundamental closed-ecosystem walled-garden flaws, AOL brought the first taste of the Internet to millions. We should celebrate the accomplishments and learn from the failings, not dance on the graves of the vanquished.
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Yes, old pages do die permanently, but achive.org is doing an absolutely outstanding job at capturing it. The bigger cause of information mortality is not neglect but outright murder, and murder on 'the open web' is a lot harder than murder in a walled garden.
AOL is a special case, and facebook is trying very very hard to be the new AOL. Don't underestimate the risks of not learning from the past, the author is in my opinion not so much dancing on the grave of AOL as they are warning us about our possible future.
To someone who didn't experience it first hand, a lot of 90s trends seem utterly ridiculous, and unlike the silly trends of the 60s/70s... 90s trends are well preserved and available for everyone to see and poke fun at.
The same goes for Yahoo! when someone writes a blog post about them in eight years.
Another AOL legacy is retention. You can't really say no without them just leaving AOL on the table. A coworker years ago used to get on for free just stringing them on...
He used to laugh about it, until that tactic worked! He ended up paying them for a while when he ran into hard times. Never without his AOL.
That experience turned him into a strange sort of fan. Disliked AOL, but loyal just the same.
It used to look a lot better than it does now though.
When he inquired the people involved about what they were doing he found them to be school kids that used the comments section of blogs as makeshift chat rooms to get around school site blockers.
For all the shit that AOL gets, they basically got the entire country on the Internet. Even the biggest unicorns today have nothing on AOL at its peak.
I ran a PC Shop in 1995-1997 I was run out of business by Big Box stores offering low cost PCs using the AOL $500 Internet Rebate that locked people into a 3 or 5 year AOL $35/month contract. I tried to convince people that they could get on the same Internet with Brick.net and if they paid for a year in advance they would only pay $9.99 a month total and save money over using AOL. I sold a $700 PC Clone with GNU/Linux or Windows 95, and the Big Box stores sold the Packard Bell system with the same specs for $200 after the $500 Internet rebate.
I hear there are people still paying AOL for dial-up access on older Macs and PCs. So I am not surprised to see the old AOL clients still work mostly.
The Basilisk II emulator needs some system files to get CD and TCP/IP networking to work in Windows. http://basilisk.cebix.net/
Here is how to get online:
Some people use Sheepshaver instead
You also need an old version of SDL and GTK+ to make it work with Windows.
These Mac emulators could be upgraded to the latest technology for the latest SDL and GTK+ libraries, the source code is available.
The hard part is getting the Macintosh ROM, Apple made System 7.X available for free, but getting the ROM is hard. You'd need access to a 68K Mac and a floppy drive to copy the ROM to and copy it over to a modern computer using a USB floppy drive and only the 1.44M format is supported not the 880K format. Some ROMs are on the Internet and I won't link to them for piracy issues, but they should be found via web searches.
I think it was given out before Steve Jobs came back to Apple. It was at a developer conference. They wanted developers to support the Macintosh at a time when Apple was struggling financially. The files on the CD could be used with emulators so they could get more Mac developers that way.
I remember people well selling copies of that CD online for a while. Then it ended up on The Pirate Bay before it was taken down or lost seeders.
Between the free shirts, the monthly mailings, and the hardware discounts it was totally worth the high price.
Aol brought the Internet to the masses.
Most people presented with a blinking ftp or gopher or even browser address prompt, stare and blink right back. At a total loss what to do, at a loss to even figure out what the need to do to start learning what they could do. But given a brightly colored display of few constrained, familiar options (weather, celebrity gossip, sports, etc) they can ingest and start to learn new medium.
Google and Seo was a good hope but Seo takes a long time. A good medium post can get blown up in a day.
This is particularly a port-web phenomena, as now everyone expects to do everything via the web. And it is quite a bit more connection straining than say IRC.
I believe a lot of people aren't aware that with AOL internet, you could run a web browser while connected and have access to the normal www. That was the case in the early 2000's - was it different before then?
The research I did into archiving AOL helped me find this: http://lizardhq.org/2015/12/05/aol-desktop.html
Hopefully I'll do enough reversing to fix and finish the custom client one day. Newer clients wrap the login and just the login in some form of SSL/TLS. Which I still need to figure out.
Maybe people can help. There's a channel at efnet #aohell and plenty of information on the archiveteam wiki.