Netcom competitor
December 10, 2012 8:19 AM   Subscribe

The history of AOL as told through New York Times crossword clues.
posted by Chrysostom (37 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
"Gmail alternative."

The fuck it is.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:24 AM on December 10, 2012 [7 favorites]


"Company you used when getting e-mail was still a good thing."
posted by bicyclefish at 8:29 AM on December 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Company nerds love to crap on with the same 4 jokes since 2003 over and over and over."
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:40 AM on December 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


i work there, AMA :)
posted by empath at 8:42 AM on December 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's remarkable. I wonder what other easily-crosswordable entities would be interesting to trace this way.
posted by asperity at 8:43 AM on December 10, 2012


You can see precisely when they retired the Concorde from looking at the clues for SST, another common answer.
posted by theodolite at 8:43 AM on December 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's funny. They only started getting categorized as "Popular ISP" after that stopped being true..

Also, how the eff do they still have $2.2 billion in revenue?
posted by schmod at 8:45 AM on December 10, 2012


i work there, AMA :)


How does one utilize 1000 hours of internet access in a single month?
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 8:45 AM on December 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


Also, how the eff do they still have $2.2 billion in revenue?

Advertising. Lots of dial up customers still.
posted by empath at 8:46 AM on December 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Nov. 4, 2001: Part of many e-mail addresses
Nov. 23, 2001: Part of some e-mail addresses


November 2001 was apparently a dark time for AOL.
posted by Panjandrum at 8:48 AM on December 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


empath: "Advertising. Lots of dial up customers still."

Huh. You're right.

AOL currently has just under 3 million free and paid users, which apparently gets them $173 million in subscription revenues each quarter (meaning most of those users are actually paying). It's about a third of their overall revenue.

Advertising earns them $340m/quarter, $227m of which is on their own internal sites, which also seems improbably high.
posted by schmod at 8:55 AM on December 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


$227m of which is on their own internal sites, which also seems improbably high.

Not if you consider that they own Huffington Post, Techcrunch, Joystiq, Patch, etc...
posted by empath at 8:56 AM on December 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Since the author was kind enough to include the data as a spreadsheet, here's the average difficulty by year, where Monday: 6 and Saturday: 1, so more stars is easier.

1997: ****
1998: **
1999: ****
2000: ***
2001: ****
2002: ****
2003: ****
2004: *****
2005: *****
2007: ****
2008: ****
2009: *****
2010: ***
2011: *****


(4 2.3 3.67 3.3 4.2 4.2 4.3 4.8 4.5 3.9 3.7 4.5 3.4 5)

and number of clues per year

1997: **
1998: ***
1999: ***
2000: ***
2001: *********
2002: *********
2003: *******
2004: *****
2005: **********
2007: ********
2008: *********
2009: ********
2010: ***********
2011: **********


(2 3 3 3 9 9 7 5 10 8 9 8 11 10)
posted by zamboni at 9:05 AM on December 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Apr. 11, 1999: “You’ve got mail” co.
Aug. 3, 1999: Prodigy alternative, for short
Sept. 2, 1999: “You’ve got mail” co."

They rehash the same easy clue in that short a time?
posted by marienbad at 9:09 AM on December 10, 2012


I saw this on waxy.org, but I assumed it was a single puzzle that was completely AOL-based. Now I realize my error. This seems way more interesting.

Mar. 9, 2011: Popular I.S.P.

L.O.L.
posted by DU at 9:19 AM on December 10, 2012


So ... it's the “You’ve got mail” co?

Mar. 9, 2011: Popular I.S.P.

L.O.L.


Yeah, I don't think these clues tell us much of anything.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:22 AM on December 10, 2012


It interesting that you can see the rise and fall of other internet companies by the clues given. If only there was an altavista mention.

Please go to Yahoo.com.
posted by drezdn at 9:22 AM on December 10, 2012


On the NYT's Crossword app they actually bundle old puzzles that have the same word as an answer. It took me awhile to figure out what the point of the bundled puzzles was, but that is it.

This reminds me too of the How I Met Your Mother episode with Will Shortz, where Ted posits that "Ulee" from Ulee's Gold turns up as an answer repeatedly "because of the vowels".
posted by chavenet at 9:22 AM on December 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm disappointed there weren't clues referencing AOL's CD mailers.
posted by mullacc at 9:24 AM on December 10, 2012


Here's the search engine results for Ulee.
posted by chavenet at 9:26 AM on December 10, 2012


Ulee's Gold, directed by Elia Kazan, based on a story by Erle Stanley Gardner. Starring Esai Morales as the title character, and Uta Hagen as Ilsa.
posted by theodolite at 9:27 AM on December 10, 2012 [9 favorites]


Who the hell was still using Prodigy in 1997?
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:34 AM on December 10, 2012


I'm pretty sure that by this point Anais Nin is more notable for her crossword ubiquity than for her diaries.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:35 AM on December 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Who the hell was still using Prodigy in 1997?

Liam Howlett?
posted by drezdn at 9:38 AM on December 10, 2012


Also, how the eff do they still have $2.2 billion in revenue?

I remember reading sometime back (no cite; alas, Google is failing me) that a huge fraction of AOL's customers were former dial-up customers who had switched to broadband and no longer used any of AOL's services but thought that they needed AOL to use the Internet.
posted by suetanvil at 9:39 AM on December 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


This reminds me too of the How I Met Your Mother episode with Will Shortz, where Ted posits that "Ulee" from Ulee's Gold turns up as an answer repeatedly "because of the vowels".

You could use this as a really unsuccessful viral marketing campaign for a movie with a short-yet-vowel-laden title.
posted by drezdn at 9:39 AM on December 10, 2012


suetanvil, I know at least one person exactly like that! Have even tried to explain they could even keep the email address if they kept a free account. But they're too used to equating AOL with "The Internet".
posted by yoHighness at 10:01 AM on December 10, 2012


Navelgazer: "I'm pretty sure that by this point Anais Nin is more notable for her crossword ubiquity than for her diaries."

Also, Mel Ott is in the Hall of Fame, but I think more important as a crossword clue than as a player.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:11 AM on December 10, 2012


Well if you want to talk about baseball players, Alou, anyone?
posted by Navelgazer at 10:14 AM on December 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Cardinals' Slaughter
posted by Copronymus at 10:27 AM on December 10, 2012


Crossword puzzles are the only reason I know both olio and oleo.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:33 AM on December 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


And if Brian Eno wasn't already one of the most famous musicians of the twentieth century, his crossword ubiquity would have guaranteed it.
posted by incomple at 11:40 AM on December 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, how do you say "EWER" in "ERSE"?
posted by mrgrimm at 12:15 PM on December 10, 2012


A: Very carefully
posted by mrgrimm at 12:16 PM on December 10, 2012


Crossword puzzles are the only reason I know both olio and oleo.

Despite the exhortations to never forget them, how quickly the Oleo Wars have slipped from memory.

posted by drezdn at 12:16 PM on December 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


a huge fraction of AOL's customers were former dial-up customers who had switched to broadband and no longer used any of AOL's services but thought that they needed AOL to use the Internet.

I do remember that at least at one time, they offered content-only subscriptions, for the chatrooms and forums and all that other stuff outside of the normal internet.

I wonder, does any of that stuff still exist?
posted by roll truck roll at 1:10 PM on December 10, 2012


I wonder, does any of that stuff still exist?

Kind of. AIM is still around, mail is still around. The messageboards are now aolanswers.com
posted by empath at 1:19 PM on December 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


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