There was a time when America Online (AOL) seemed to rule the Internet--the North American aspect, at least--offering subscribers access to exclusive content, online chatting, social games, a portal to the new World Wide Web and more. It seemed to define what Americans viewed as the Internet and even became the centerpiece for many popular movies in the 1990s. But after its 2001 merger with Time Warner, service usage began to drop, the latest numbers indicating a fall from over ten million in November 2007 to just over 4 million in June 2010.
But things may be changing for the pioneering Internet service. In December 2009 AOL officially ceased to be a part of Time Warner. Now almost a year later the service has officially re-launched, focusing on day-part programming and video content. The company claims that the revamped service is based on visitor interests and user habits including making multiple visits "throughout the day with an increasing affinity for photos, video, commerce and causes."
According to the company, new AOL features will include "You've Got," a platform where "famous and not-so-famous" get 45 seconds to send a message to Americans. The new Light Box will be the service's new video player whereas AOL Daybreak will provide a morning news round-up. Viral videos will receive a two-minute focus each day via The ONE, and the Daily Buzz will be based on stories people are talking about and sharing. Editor's Picks, WOW! Deal of the Day and Cause Marketing were three other services mentioned by AOL in its official launch announcement.
Monday AOL also said that visitors will receive a heaping of news in three chunks: morning, daytime, and evening, mimicking the big TV networks. The most important stories of the day will be reported in the morning while breaking news updates will take place in the Daytime segment. The Evening news will wrap up the day's overall coverage while adding themed stories and more.
"The highly-visual new AOL.com puts video front and center," the company said. "AOL has partnered with a group of leading creators of high quality made-for-Web video whose content will be featured regularly on AOL.com and throughout all areas of AOL’s network along with video content created in AOL’s own state of the art HD studios in New York and Los Angeles."
AOL still offers monthly subscriptions starting at $9.99 for those accessing the Internet via a modem. The free version for Broadband users offers AOL email, online customer support and the all-in-one AOL software suite.