AOL gives it all -- well, most -- away
You know things are bad if your stock jumps when you cut prices to zero. But that's just what's happening this morning for Time Warner (the browsers vast and benevolent corporate parent). As the media giant reported strong second-quarter earnings (shares are up 2.8% as of now), it also announced that it intends to give most of AOL's online services away for free -- presumably a historic event.

Historic, but overplayed. Victoria Shannon at the International Herald Tribune, for example, is among the reporters who got carried away by the news: "It is a huge move forward for the grass-roots notion that 'information needs to be free.'" Calm down, Victoria. Let's put this in perspective: AOL's not giving away Internet access, it's just giving away Web-based email which, for the record, you could get for free from Hotmail almost a decade ago. Moreover, AOL users will soon see as many ads next to their inboxes as users of Yahoo Mail or Gmail. Free, perhaps, but hardly noncommercial.

On the For Peter's Sake blog, the news was greeted more nonchalantly: "I think this is probably a good idea for AOL. They were yesterday’s Internet, and they needed a big change to stay relevant." Blogger Peter gives props to AOL for its In2TV service, and also praises the addition of VOIP to AOL Instant Messenger -- among AOL's new, free services is a local phone number that lets AIM users receive calls on their computers. Can AOL claw its way back to Net respectability? We hope so. We'd rather watch TWX shares rise than listen to yet another mea culpa from Steve Case.
Posted by Oliver Ryan 10:32 AM 0 Comments comment | Add a Comment

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