Retro Friday: “AOL Sucks”
For many thousands of people, America Online (AOL) was first ISP they ever used to access the internet. In fact, it was my first way of getting on the internet but that didn’t last long because the local access number was a long-distance call. (My local phone company eventually offered local ISP access and that’s what I ultimately used.)
Sucks in this context translates to “is bad”, and yes I do periodically use it when writing articles because the word just works so well. Everyone knows what it means even though it ends up as a fragment (i.e. “To suck what exactly? Eggs? Feet? Balloons? Cheeseburgers?”)
In the early days of internet, the two most-often instances of sucks were usually directed at Microsoft (both for IE and the company itself) and AOL.
Today, if you search the internet for aol sucks, you will mostly find seriously old web pages containing some seriously long waffling by those who had bad experiences with the America Online software and service.
Here’s a few examples of old crusty aol sucks web pages that upon read now are just laughable:
- Why AOL Sucks (part I of III, no less)
- AOL Sucks (appears to have not been updated in years)
- WHY I THINK AOL SUCKS
- AOL Sux (warning, has crappy Java)
- Aol SUCKS
…and of course there’s this video:
What made AOL truly suck?
AOL’s suckiness happened because of a common thread that happens to many American businesses that get too popular: Overselling the service.
The cycle of overselling is this:
- Company introduces product.
- Company vigorously advertises product.
- Advertising works and customers start throwing money at company in droves.
- Company is very happy because they’re making a ton of money.
- Company then realizes they don’t have the manpower and/or equipment to handle all the customers.
- Customers get angry at company because customer service can’t handle all the customers.
- Company basically says “screw the customer because we’re making piles of money” and runs product/service into the ground for as long as they can make a buck off it.
- Company’s product loses favor with the masses and customers start leaving as fast as they came.
- Company either folds, sells out to someone else or reinvents itself with new product and starts cycle all over again.
As said above, this cycle is very common with large American businesses. Certain department store chains, wireless carriers and a whole bunch of other large, well-known companies simply can’t handle success properly. And for all intents and purposes it’s strictly forbidden to say no to new customers even if the company has more than enough to make everyone happy. The almighty dollar rules above all, I suppose.
AOL these days has completely reinvented themselves and almost exclusively concentrates on web properties rather than direct consumer business. And to be honest, they’re doing very well at it. Sites like Huffington Post and TechCrunch are AOL properties as well as a bunch of others.
AOL today is not the one you remember as it’s a completely different animal now, and in my opinion a much better one; it would appear they’ve learned from their past mistakes. But even so, it’s funny to look back at all the “AOL SUCKS!” web pages from years ago.