Archives » August 4th, 2006

August 4, 2006

AOL For Free

On the surface this may seem like a move of desperation. AOL is giving away its client software and e-mail for free to anyone who has a broadband connection. This software, with its built-in e-mail client and web browser, has always been the heart of AOL’s offerings. They’re still charging you if you use AOL for your dial-up access, but everyone else can get an account for free. It’s no secret that AOL has been hemmoraging subscribers as people move away from dial-up and onto faster connections. This could be seen as a way to get people back. In fact, they’ve admitted it:

For members who’ve left us over the past two years, we’ve kept your e-mail address. When this effort is fully operational in early September, you’ll be able to come home again — for free.

So is this the last gasp of a dying company, struggling to hold on? No, it’s actually part of the shift at AOL from being an ISP to being a content provider and advertising-based company. They’re moving everything they used to charge for towards being free, and putting ads next to it all. And they’re more successful at that than they were at charging people for dial-up. Probably one of the smartest things they’ve done in the last year was buying Weblogs, Inc. and getting Jason Calacanis to come on board as a vice president. That guy knows how to make money online, and how to attract attention and publicity.

AOL is trying to turn itself around, to become reborn. I don’t know how successful it will be, but I do know it’s headed in the right direction at least.

And, it will save me $10.91 a month on that AOL account that my mother-in-law just won’t let go of.