Last night I was asked to help fix a Windows computer that reportedly wouldn't connect to the Internet. Upon arriving, I found the DSL broadband Internet connection supplied by the local telephone company was working perfectly. I was able to open Internet Explorer and go to any web site I tried. After a bit of conversation with the computer's owner, I found that the only problem was that AOL did not work. The owner thought the Internet connection was bad because she makes all her connections through AOL's software. She uses AOL Explorer to look at web sites and AOL’s software to access her e-mail messages. She had never used Internet Explorer, Firefox, or any other non-AOL web browser.
The AOL software had a corrupted file. I have no idea how it became corrupted but such things are not unusual. I simply re-installed the AOL software and she was soon computing online again.
We then had a bit of discussion about AOL versus the Internet. She thought they were one and the same until we started chatting. I was able to convince her that AOL was a service that runs on top of the Internet. An AOL membership is not necessary to enjoy all the millions of web sites on the Internet nor is AOL required for e-mail service unless you want an e-mail address ending in "@aol.com.
After a while, I was able to convince this lady that AOL was not the same thing as "the Internet."
After more conversation, she reported that she was paying $14.95 a month to AOL plus another $30+ per month to the local telephone company for a broadband DSL connection. I suggested that she drop AOL, thereby saving $179.40 per year. She agreed for a moment, then said, "What about my e-mail?"
Indeed, dropping an unneeded service from AOL also means losing your e-mail account. In my mind, that is a good thing as AOL's e-mail service is rather primitive. Several of the free online services (Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc.) provide better e-mail services and do so at no charge. I suggested she switch to a different e-mail service.
NOTE: AOL does provide parental controls for e-mail that may be desirable when giving e-mail accounts to children. Similar programs are available for other e-mail services, but are not as conveniently bundled as the offerings from AOL. However, in last night's case, there was nobody in the house under the age of 70 so special software for children was not an issue.
While the lady was open to the idea of obtaining a new e-mail address, she wasn't as receptive to the idea of having to notify all her friends and relatives of the new address. She also was concerned about her genealogy queries posted on various newsgroups and web sites that list her AOL address. Making an abrupt change would obviously be a bad idea.
Luckily, there is an easy method to transition.
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