The Surprising Evolution Of These Forgotten Social Media Sites

America Online, or AOL, was another creature of the nineties that may not be strictly referred to as a social media, but it featured many of the same elements. Initially, AOL was the portal to the internet for millions of people in the time of dial-up modems and slow internet on slow computers with meager capabilities. AOL was a sort of window into the world of information when websites were mostly text-based and images took time to load on screens.

AOL’s heyday was in the nineties when millions of people experienced the internet through its interface. It included email, chat rooms, a web browser, and more. The UI displayed multiple tabs that could take you to shopping, travel guides, news, weather, and sports. It had games, a buddy list, and advertising. Your entire internet experience could be contained without ever leaving the AOL interface. AOL took advantage of this captive audience and added and updated its services continually until the user base began to decline when broadband entered American homes, giving users a direct line to the internet (via¬†The Smithsonian).

AOL merged with Time Warner in 2000 in one of the largest corporate mergers to that date but began to see market share fall soon after, per Fast Company. It still exists as a subsidiary of Yahoo and still offers email and other services, such as identity theft protection. What was one of the defining features of a decade is now just a shell of its former self.

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