This week AOL celebrates the company’s 25 year anniversary. Throughout the internet service provider turned online advertising company’s history, they’ve been the force behind some of the most epic web-related fails known to man.
While it would be impossible to document the company’s endless list of shortcomings, there are some that distinguish themselves from the pack.
Here are 18 of the AOL’s biggest fails throughout the years, in no particular order.
1. Customer Service Fail
In June of 2006, Vincent Ferrari called AOL in an attempt to cancel his account. After waiting 15 minutes to speak with a representative, Vincent soon found out that AOL wasn’t going to let him go so easily. Following much debate, AOL finally agreed to cancel his account, but made sure to let him know that they were only trying to keep him as a customer for his “own good.”
2. Digg Spam Fail
AOL was called out for the sketchy measures they took to make the front page of Digg.com in August of 2006. The company had pushed their Weblogs stories to the front page by encouraging employees to submit and Digg their own, and fellow staff members’ stories.
3. Rebranding Fail
AOL officially rebranded their company as “Aol.” in November of 2009. The new Aol. kicked off their launch with several new logos which were clearly created in five minutes using Photoshop. Just what AOL needed to revitalize their dying brand.
4. Bebo Fail
Following an $850 million acquisition in 2008, AOL announced this year that they would either be selling, or shutting down Bebo. Recently, current CEO Tim Armstrong went on record stating the deal “really fell apart.” I’d say so.
5. Search Data Fail
In August of 2006, AOL Research leaked a file containing 25 million keyword searches conducted by over 650,000 users on one of its websites. Though the data was intended for “research,” AOL users weren’t thrilled about the public release of potentially sensitive information. AOL pulled the file three days later.
6. Disk Solicitation Fail
Up until 2006, AOL was known for the massive distribution of their software installation disks. As the disks went largely unused, the company came under fire for their blatant disregard of the negative environmental impact that they had. In August of 2006, AOL decided to “go green” and halt the production of their disks.
7. Yahoo Cloning Fail
In April of 2007, AOL redesigned their site and encouraged visitors to “experience the new AOL.com.” Their new face, however, looked strangely familiar to some. Why? AOL’s new look was a complete rip-off of Yahoo.com. Apparently, AOL was reading Tony Robbins at the time — “If you want to be successful, find someone who has achieved the results you want and copy what they do and you’ll achieve the same results.” Unfortunately for AOL, it didn’t exactly play out like that.
8. Usenet Fail
In 1993, AOL gave their customers access to Usenet …limited access, that is. It soon came to light that AOL neglected to list one specific newsgroup in “standard view.” Which group, you ask? None other than alt.aol-sucks.The group, however, was listed in the “alternate view” with the altered description “flames and complaints about America Online” accompanying it.
9. Terms of Service Fail
In the early years of AOL’s popularity, the company came under fire for its strict and elaborate terms of service. Users of the service were required to agree to the terms listed, which gave them grounds to censor user-generated content – oh, and they did.
Here are just a few of AOL’s ridiculous terms of service violations:
- Using words deemed “dirty” in AOL chatrooms (e.g. using the word “breast” when discussing how to prepare chicken in a cooking-themed chatroom).
- Posting content with an “inappropriate” subject matter on AOL message boards (e.g. users discussing how to prevent hacking).
- Creating a profile containing “bad” words (e.g. community leader Douglas Kuntz was unable to update his profile to display his last name as it violated AOL’s TOS).
10. 56k Connection Fail
The fact that some people are still forced to use 56k internet due to lack of broadband in their area is sad enough, AOL’s offering of the service is even sadder. For just $9.99 per month, you can enjoy the slowest internet connection in existence with AOL’s dated software included. What a deal!
Check out 11- 18 over at Techie.com