The Most Depressing Blog in the World

It’s the AOL People Connection Blog, because nearly every single post is about some AOL community project or another being shuttered. CircaVie? Gone. Ficlets? Gone. AOL Pictures? AOL Hometown? AOL Journals? Gone, gone, baby, gone. I worked on several of these projects in their various incarnations, and I have to say it’s just a little sad to watch AOL slowly dismantle itself like this.

As depressing as it is to read it, it must be worse to have to write it, since every post announcing the dissolution of yet another AOL project has a trail of sad, wee comments, in which the users of the projects lament their passing. Really, if I were writing this blog, I’d be ending each day with a belt of whiskey, because think about it: if your blog is all about turning off the lights on various AOL initiatives, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out where the blog’s eventually going to end up.

The worst thing is that as they close up shop on the various AOL initiatives, they encourage folks to check out their new social networking stuff… on Bebo.

Oh, AOL. You were so beautiful, once. I will try to remember you as you were.

In the meantime, a song, appropriate for the moment, and for AOL’s heyday.

38 thoughts on “The Most Depressing Blog in the World

  1. You know, I think AOL has been shooting itself in the foot for a very long time…remember when it used to send out all those blasted CDs to everyone? Wait…they still do that don’t they?

  2. Wow… that really stinks. The only one of those I ever used was Ficlets, but I liked it. My friend and I had a lot of fun with that for a while. Sad to see all that stuff disappearing so fast, though.

  3. Went looking for a children’s story about Esperanto and found that the author had posted it to AOL something. That had closed so the only way I could find it was by going through the Internet Archives.

  4. O Wrong Scalzi, wrong as usual.

    The Most Depressing Blog in the World is of course the Whatever whenever you are posting about irrelevant things (most of the time) and not about Her Most Glorious Perfection, the Beauteous Ghlaghghee (a criminally miniscule amount of time).

    The Executive Committee of The Official Ghlaghghee Fan Club is pleased to present you with a guide to making the Whatever The Most Awesome Blog in the World:

    1. Post only pictures and updates of Magnificent She, Mighty Lopsided Cat, and TempCat Zeus.
    2. This means you should not post about yourself. Nobody cares.
    3. Do not post about the state of the publishing industry. Nobody cares.
    4. Do not post about politics. Nobody cares.
    5. Do not post about other writers, unless they are discussing Her Perfection. Nobody cares.
    6. Do not post pictures of Anteater-Thing. Nobody except the lunatics of the Anteater-Thing Appreciation Society cares.
    7. Posts relating to Krissy and Athena are acceptable only when the theme revolves around Her, Mighty Lopsided Cat, and TempCat Zeus. Note that you are irrelevant.
    8. Do not post about you. Nobody cares.

    This has been a helpful communication from the Executive Committee of The Official Ghlaghghee Fan Club. You may thank us by posting a new series of pictures of Her Shimmering Radiant Perfection right now.

    The Official Ghlaghghee Fan Club

  5. Having never been a fan of AOL, this does not depress me at all. I say about damn time, and someone should just put them out of their misery.

  6. It was interesting to page back through and see that the blog really started dying in February. The two people running the blog said that it was their last day at AOL. From then on, instead of a post a day about what cool thing AOL was doing, it was a post every month or so announcing another AOL service being shuttered.

  7. I hate AO Hell. I heard they didn’t send out warnings/emails when they started dismantling and a number of people lost all their info and pics. There was much screaming on the webs. But then, what did they expect from AO Hell?

  8. When I think about AOL, I think about the six months and numerous telephone calls, and finally intervention by the credit card company involved that it took for my friend to stop being charged for AOL service. And, oh yes, there was also the upsale charge they stuck on her bill without her authorization.

  9. My recollection of AOL is primarily of the day when they allowed all their users access to the USENET newsgroups, which from the perspective of those of us who were already there was as if the gates had been opened to let the barbarians in. (C.f. the September that never ended.) It seemed like every third post came from the AOL domain, and half of those were both badly misspelled and contained large and weird logic errors.

    (As someone who loved a good flamewar, this amused me for months on end.)

    So anyway, the notion of AOL as something that provided real value to people beyond basic access to the Internet always strikes a chord of cognitive dissonance in my mind.

  10. I’ve been on AOL since 1992 or so, and I created my genealogy website there in 1996. I can’t tell you how POed I was when I found out I had to move it, and then try to remember all the places where I had submitted genealogical information that referenced my page over those 12 years! I imagine I’ll have to quit AOL eventually now since my husband’s excuse to people who laughed at him for still using it was that I wouldn’t let him quit because I wanted consistency with my webpages, but then I’d still have to keep the AOL software because I have over 10,000 saved emails relating to genealogy that I’d have no way to access otherwise! Arrrgggh!

  11. Sorry, John. I know you used to work there, but for many of us, that blog is best read while enjoying a tasty slice of schadenfreude pie.

  12. I never understood AOL in the slightest. I know you had a good working relationship with them, I’m sure some people enjoyed them, but all I remember about them is getting a million cd-roms in the mail promising more free hours than a month included.

    Then, when you got on it, you had to wade through the slush to get to the actual internet. It was always so junked up, I couldn’t stand it. AOL always seemed to me like the internet your newly-initiated-to-the-computer-by-way-of-their-son-in-law grandparents would start out on. Until six months later when they got comfortable and went to a regular service provider like the rest of us. It was like internet for dummies.

    I know it has changed a lot since then and tried to integrate itself into the actual internet, but I can’t see why it didn’t die 7 years ago.

  13. The company I used to work for got bought out last spring. The new owners were great blathering idiots, and so more and more people left, and were never replaced. Over time, the people who were left got more and more depressed about it all… and by the time they closed the office doors on the last dozen or so people, many of them had developed the habit of having a couple shots of whatever they could find in the afternoon. Pretty damn depressing. I imagine what those AOL folks are going through is worse, because AOL was once a company people actually cared about…

  14. This is annoying. As AOL discards more and more services, more ads are being placed everywhere imaginable. I’ve decided to leave AOL, but am confused as to what service to use. Advice? Anyone?

    Also, I have several hundred saved favorites and the only way to export into another program is to right click, open each link, copy and paste into the new program or into a word processing program to be later copied and pasted into a new program. So much for the next few days of my life. Guess having a mass export ability is too user friendly.

    Gah, this blows….

  15. Thanks for reminding me to bop over to Ficlets and check to make sure I’d backed up everything. Missed two bits, one free-standing and another which was the last part of a serial story. Guess I’ll work on the story sometime. (grin)

    Funny how in the spring of 2007 I thought I had time to do a little Ficlet’ing every few days.

    Dr. Phil

  16. I should have realized Ficlets would go the way of the others. (Not to self: find out whether I have copies of what I wrote there.) At least they had the courtesy to provide ways to move the blogs and photos elsewhere.

    Yes, it’s very sad. I don’t know what they think they’re doing, unless it’s to shut down the AOL brand entirely.

  17. Imagine in 10 years (if?) google goes down this route. People screaming bloody murder about the loss of docs, picasa, the like. I suppose the only way to make it is if you continue to innovate.

  18. Revenge is sweet, though late in coming: I hate AOL because a) very long ago they took over CompuServe, which used to host the best online forum about foreign languages and translation (FLEFO), and promptly ruined it completely, and b) my latest laptop arrived with AOL preinstalled. When I tried to uninstall, it wouldn’t let me. I called Toshiba tech service for help, and they referred me to the AOL customer service – which informed me that, in order to uninstall, I had first to activate the service (providing my credit card number), and I could then cancel the service and uninstall their junk. Knowing what a nightmare canceling AOL was for far too many people, I declined the offer to register, and various pieces of AOL junk can still be found in various crannies of my hard disk and registry.

  19. AOL provided some of us with relatively inexpensive dial-up Internet access post-university graduation before there were dozens of less expensive ISPs to choose from in the days of Windows 3.1, winsock and PPTP. It prevented me from going through Usenet/Bitnet withdrawal. As soon as we could afford our own domain name, hosting and broadband, we ditched AOL. It served its purpose in its day, though.

  20. What do you expect from a company that won’t let you send an attachment that’s larger than 16mb in December, 2008, but will give you unlimited storage for thousands of junk and spam emails?

    They haven’t upgraded with the times, they haven’t become more convenient, their program tries to hijack not only your computer, but your *modem* for crying out loud. I’ve tried to use it many times through the years and every single time it has annoyed me. That trick with the “modem manager” where it tried to shove aside my carefully constructed firewall and layers of security for its… whatever… was just too much. I still don’t know if I’ve undone everything it tried to do.

  21. Lisa @14: That was one of the benefits, though — because AOL _was_ “internet-for-dummies”, it was a significant part of the transition between the internet’s social circles being a place for computer geeks (as they largely were, pre-AOL), and being a place for people in general. And even if a lot of people “outgrew” it after a few months, that doesn’t mean it was useless for those months.

    I’m sure to a considerable extent this was a matter of “steam-engine time” and someone else would have done it if AOL didn’t — and there were plenty of places, such as BEVnet from the town next to my hometown, doing it too — but AOL was nonetheless a big part of it.

    I don’t actually have fond memories of my own AOL account, though. When I was setting up networking on my home computer when I started grad school, I found myself in the chicken-and-egg situation of needing to download a program from the campus network to be able to dial in to connect to the campus network. And I thought I was clever by deciding to use one of the AOL CDs (or perhaps it was a floppy disk still, but I think this was one of their first CDs) to make an end run around the problem. It would have been great — except that the campus network website had a two-minute timeout between giving you the login webpage and receiving the reply with your password, and after a half-hour of trying, I had to conclude that AOL’s connection was simply too bogged down with users to load the page and submit the form within that window. So I went to campus with a floppy disk, and called AOL to cancel, and after answering lots of, “No, even if you give me two extra free months, I don’t want the account” questions, got it cancelled.

    Meanwhile, I just made the connection that, since I still use AIM for my online chatting (for reasons unrelated to that AOL account), the imminent death of AOL affects me directly. Wonder how long those lights are going to stay on….

  22. Never liked AOL, though Ficlets sounds like a cool idea. I recall at least three times over the years where AOL charges mysteriously appeared on one of my credit cards –two of them were from purchasing computers at CompUSA, even though I had declined the “100% TOTALLY FREE FOREVER AOL account” both times. Seems AOL’s annoying-as-hell marketing extended to offering incentives to CUSA salespeople.

    I started with dial-up bulletin boards, moved to CompuServe, left there for MSN (blech), landed on Mindspring, which then bought Earthlink, and here I’ve stayed for about twelve years. If Verizon ever builds FIOS into Philadelphia (Comcast is vigorously defending their monopoly), I will certainly consider that as the next step.

  23. Never ever used aol – a friend did but aol did not work in vista – when he upgraded* to vista aol lost his business.

    If aol cannot support vista without there software crashing then surely aol deserve to die?

    Expect the same for yahoo.

    * a mistake

  24. Isn’t “Closing Time” a song about (re)birth?

    “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end”

    I’m counting this as subtle optimism and docking your “depressing” rating 10 points.

  25. While I’m inclined to agree about hating AOL, nobody else made the internet accessible like them. So while I cursed all the 10 year old morons who suddenly invaded my newsgroups, most of those 10 year old morons have since grown up and become pretty cool folks, in no small part due to their participation on the net.

    So hate ‘em sure, but don’t forget that they made the net accessible.

  26. Mego @33: I find the claim that AOL “ruined” Usenet to be a bit shortsighted. Sure, in the mid-1990s when it was happening, we didn’t have hindsight on it yet so all analysis was shortsighted — but, looking back, I think the picture is a bit clearer. Usenet, for better or worse, was a thriving community for at least a decade after the start of Endless September. Without that influx of newbies, I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have been; I think it would have dwindled and died sooner and much more thoroughly than it did. (Not only quicker than it has now, but more thoroughly. Many pockets of it still thrive — especially if you look outside what used to be the old core.)

    I wasn’t part of pre-1994 Usenet, but I was part of a local newsgroup culture that had a lot in common with the antediluvian Usenet culture. It thrived, it was a wonderful place of community and everyone knew how it worked and who everyone was. Which, though we didn’t really realize it at the time, was a fatal flaw: there were no new people coming in. And people graduated, or got bored, and suddenly and more quickly than I expected, it hit a tipping point where the conversations lost critical mass, and now it gets a half-dozen posts a year.

    My guess is that, save for AOL and what followed from it, that would have been Usenet in about 1999 or so.

  27. Scalzi, it is terribly depressing. As one of the people who helped to plan the shuttering, (against my vehement opposition) I do feel awful for the people still there who actually have to pull the plugs. It’s a horrible feeling!

  28. As much as I rip into AoL and its general populace (and its continued existence), I will be a little sad to see it go, too. I met my first girlfriend there, and she’s still one of my closest friends. I ‘adopted’ my little sister there. I first played with putting my words online amongst those folk. I got into roleplaying and games of that sort. I first found out how I could manipulate this incredible thing called “the Internet”. I had my first webpage and even still have my second AiM Screen name as active and happy.

    AoL was always the crutch for the internet, but it did get so may of us walking. Here’s to AoL *slainte*

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