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The FCC approves the AOL/Time-Warner merger.
January 11, 2001 6:48 PM   Subscribe

The FCC approves the AOL/Time-Warner merger. We're all doomed.
posted by Steven Den Beste (36 comments total)

 
Have you prayed? Hell is here.

Btw, this is scary, 2001 is technical owned by AOL. So are most of the other SK films. It's kind funny, but mostly sad, because you can take anything you really love and hold sacred, chances are, it's owned by AOL.
posted by tiaka at 7:18 PM on January 11, 2001


R.E.M. works for AOL. ::shudder::
posted by hijinx at 7:27 PM on January 11, 2001


The little weasels were so anxious (or, more likely, scared that some agency would step in and try to stop them) that they closed the deal within minutes after getting the FCC approval. They even have the new corporate web site up already (warning: contains bad oversized flash file).

The first layoffs are expected next week, when CNN will be sacking up to 25% of its employees.

I still remember the full-page insert in Macworld back in '85 or '86 begging you to "send in this card now" to be a charter subscriber to a cool new all-Mac online service....
posted by aaron at 8:19 PM on January 11, 2001



My dad's got every issue of Macworld.. I'll have to dig that up.
posted by sudama at 9:14 PM on January 11, 2001


Ah, eWorld. Oh the memories.
posted by swank6 at 9:59 PM on January 11, 2001


Can someone please explain this to me? When I used AOL about a decade ago, it sucked. It royally sucked. And since I left and actually got myself a real ISP, I've watched AOL from a distance and I have yet to see how it's improved compared to the rest of the world. Sure it's better than it was when I left, but compared to other service providers AOL has always lagged behind. Everything from techno-goofs to censorship woes, it seems to only go as fast as the dumbest of its subscribers will allow it, like an overfilled classroom where the teacher constantly slows up the class so the slow kid can understand what everyone else has already figured out.

Yet in a present climate of dotcomrisk, where startups are shutting down and yesterday's rocket platforms are tomorrow's flybynight crashnburns, AOL is able to actually turn enough of a proift to tango with the big boys? Is there no justice in this world? How can this possibly have ever happened? The laws of physics have either up-ended, or something very foul smelling is going on here. Bill Gates was slapped on the hand with a ruler for trying to create a media monopoly out of the Internet, yet AOLTimeWarner can do the same thing without reprisal? There is no logic to this.
posted by ZachsMind at 10:42 PM on January 11, 2001


Zach, AOL isn't intended for people like you and me. AOL is intended for people who don't really understand computers or the Internet. AOL is the great leveller; it's the ISP for "the rest of us" (or the rest of them). For the kind of people who use MeFi, it's completely inappropriate.

But we're not typical. For a retired carpenter, or a housewife who may have studied Home Ec, or a kid age 8, AOL is nearly perfect. And there are a lot of people like that out there who want to get online but want it simplified.

Let's put it this way: take a typical Linux user and invert everything. That's a typical AOL customer.

Steve Case recognized that need, and that's why he's rich and you and I aren't. He's made some mistakes but he's learned from them, and now he has a polished product and a viable business model.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 10:51 PM on January 11, 2001


Connect Inform Entertain

Sounds like an example for eNormicom
posted by riffola at 11:10 PM on January 11, 2001


Perhaps AOL/Time Warner will purchase American Airlines tomorrow.
posted by ooklah at 11:11 PM on January 11, 2001


I wouldn't mind working for AOL. They will be around for a long long time.
posted by Brilliantcrank at 11:18 PM on January 11, 2001


Well okay fine but couldn't Case at least tell these bozos to turn off their capslock? Would that be too much to ask?

So ISPs that have catered to me in the past, and other companies which do not insult one's intelligence, they can't stay above water, but AOL caters to the dumb masses of the world and becomes omnipotent. Anyone besides me see a correlation between this and Roman Catholicism? Maybe it's just me...
posted by ZachsMind at 11:27 PM on January 11, 2001


Good point, Steve. And I'll go you one better:

The only difference between AOL and any other ISP is that AOL offers content IN ADDITION to standard internet access. Don't like the ad bombardment, and AOL proprietary crap shoved in your face all the time? Fine. Minimize the AOL program, and use Internet Explorer. But if you want that other stuff, (chatrooms, etc.) it is there, at your disposal. The network Points Of Presence (POP)s are the same as with any other ISP. The rate of data transmission is exactly the same with AOL as it is with Earthlink or MSN, or the local ISP your uncle fred started in 1999 in hopes of striking it rich on "this internet thing".

Don't get me wrong. I hate AOL as much as the next guy. And I have quite a few reasons to do so. In addition to being one of the 4 ex-employees of that company who DIDN'T become a millionaire, I think their strategy of pandering to the ignorance of the average user, rather than attempting to educate those people, is philisophically wrong and economically harmful, in the long run.

Plus, Steve Case's eyes give me the friggin' creeps.


posted by Optamystic at 11:32 PM on January 11, 2001


Since when is AOL omnipotent? That's a scary, thank God that's not true. They're a powerful and wealthy corporation and when the next best thing comes along they'll be yesterday's news. Steven Den Beste, you make a great point, bravo. Back in the day I used AOL. Does that make me part of the dumb masses? I hope not, because I use MeFi just like you all. Most people just want to drive the car and leave what's under the hood to others. Press gas to go, or boot up AOL to get e-mail, IM, and a connection to the internet. Ain't nothing wrong with that.
posted by Bag Man at 11:36 PM on January 11, 2001


Gotta agree with some previous comments... Connect via AOL. Minimize AOL. Go about your business.

I've been connecting at 52K each and every time for a couple of years now. I disconnect only when there's a threat of nuclear meltdown. AOL must have a modem with my name engraved on a gold plaque. Life is good.

Is AOL the anti-christ? Maybe. But I don't give a crap. As long as I can connect each and every time until the end of the world, I'm happy.

posted by shinybeast at 2:23 AM on January 12, 2001


I would still classify AOL as an online service with Internet access. Given that they have been criticized for years for their poor integrated browser, it's no surprise. But, "online service" is a very early-90s term; ISP sounds better, and more people are familiar with the term "ISP". In addition, not enough AOLers know that you can minimize the window.

IMHO, it's silly to see businesses with a real website, with a real domain name, and an AOL address.

Anyhoo, I'm curious to see if AOLTW (ack!) will have a nifty corporate logo. I'm also curious if there'll be a trendy "swoosh" in it.


posted by hijinx at 4:11 AM on January 12, 2001


Anyhoo, I'm curious to see if AOLTW (ack!) will have a nifty corporate logo. I'm also curious if there'll be a trendy "swoosh" in it.

or maybe even a fetching spiral
posted by lagado at 4:28 AM on January 12, 2001


There seems to be a belief amongst the l33t that if you are not good with computers you are an idiot. AOL users run the spectrum from Phd's to Jerry Springer guests.

The model that AOL is built apon is solid. The difference between all those failed dotcom's and AOL is business sense, not tech geegaw.

That said, I freakin hate Case, Ted Turner, & the new evil empire.
posted by Mick at 5:28 AM on January 12, 2001


I hate AOL too, but I've got to agree with Mick -- just because someone uses AOL doesn't make them an all-around idiot. It just means that they couldn't care less about all the technical details of the net.

We sound like a bunch of mechanics critisizing people for not knowing how to fix an engine when it makes a thumping noise. We're a bunch of Real Estate agents not understanding why someone doesn't know what 'escrow' means. Linguists arguing that everyone should learn the phonetic alphabet in grade school.

We should try to see the world through other people's eyes. Personally, I use my mother as an example of someone who's quite intellegent but doesn't really feel like leaving the safe boundries of AOL. It doesn't make her an idiot, although AOL does have their fair share of idiots, just like any ISP, workplace, or town.
posted by jragon at 6:59 AM on January 12, 2001


But none of this addresses the dangers of letting the same people own both the content and the conveyence.

This is a REALLY, REALLY BAD THING, folks. I mean, I expect civil disobedience over this, if not possibly some actual attacks...
posted by baylink at 7:34 AM on January 12, 2001


There are a lot of political cartoons out there about this, but I think the first one on this page sums up consumer reaction pretty nicely.
posted by Potsy at 7:55 AM on January 12, 2001


AOL owns Mr. Bungle's records. I could just puke.
posted by sonofsamiam at 7:57 AM on January 12, 2001


If I remeber correctly, didn't AOL burn Time-Warner early on in the AOL "content provider" partnerships? I'll have to re-read Burn Rate tonight when I get home now.
posted by tj at 9:42 AM on January 12, 2001


They even have the new corporate web site up already (warning: contains bad oversized flash file).

Not only oversized, but apparently it crashed my browser. Hey, did anyone notice that in IE5.5SP1, when it crashes (which is rare...), you get to send a bug report to MS if you so choose. IOW, it crashes somewhat gracefully.

But none of this addresses the dangers of letting the same people own both the content and the conveyence.

Exactly, vertical integration is exactly how Rockefeller and Carnegie achieved their monopolies over 100 years ago. Hmmm...
posted by daveadams at 9:55 AM on January 12, 2001


So ISPs that have catered to me in the past, and other companies which do not insult one's intelligence, they can't stay above water, but AOL caters to the dumb masses of the world and becomes omnipotent. Anyone besides me see a correlation between this and Roman Catholicism?

and a correlation between this and popular music, and this and popular films, and this and television, and this and popular print media...
posted by jennyb at 10:52 AM on January 12, 2001


That's a great cartoon, Potsy. I had it up in my cube when I was temping at AOL.
posted by sudama at 10:58 AM on January 12, 2001


I just want to note to y'all that Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and The Flash and Mad Magazine are now owned by AOL.
posted by owillis at 11:10 AM on January 12, 2001


With Time's print subscribers, AOL members and paid HBO subscribers, the new company will have a combined subscriber base of more than 100 million, easily the largest in the world, according to Jim Ledbetter of The Industry Standard, AOL Gobbles up Time Warner. Does this mean AOL coasters in my Time subscription. The shameless promotion possibilities are endless, Oh no AOL coasters in my MAD magazine, the end is near.
posted by McShrimp at 1:55 PM on January 12, 2001


Geez. Besides the fact that AOL is the geek's favorite whipping boy, is all this Viewing With Alarm really warranted? And if it is, why aren't y'all yelping about Viacom, Seagram, Disney, NewCorp, Bertelsmann and Sony, all of whom also "own both the content and the conveyance," and lots of it too?


posted by rodii at 3:46 PM on January 12, 2001


Hey, did anyone notice that in IE5.5SP1, when it crashes (which is rare...), you get to send a bug report to MS if you so choose. IOW, it crashes somewhat gracefully.

Gee, that's a cool idea.

It sounds almost like that Full-Circle TalkBack thing Netscape has been shipping with since...

4.05 or so.

:-)

As, Rodii, for why we're not yelping about those things *here*... it's because they're off topic. Did you *read* Frankston's piece?
posted by baylink at 5:51 PM on January 12, 2001


"The rate of data transmission is exactly the same with AOL as it is with Earthlink or MSN, or the local ISP your uncle fred started in 1999"

Actually, that wasn't my experience at all. Sure, they all tell you "Connected at 50,666bps", and that probably really is the speed between your modem and theirs, but your data goes a long way past your ISP. Or to focus on my point here, your data goes *through* your ISP, and your speed depends on how well they handle that.

AOL doesn't handle it very well at all. Internet access was an afterthough -- they started as 100% propretary content. For a long time, it was horrendous trying to access the 'net via AOL (or so I've heard, anyway, I wasn't a member back then), and they've improved a lot since then, but still.

Same computer, same modem, same phone line, same web sites...I got around 3.2kbps download speeds according to various programs when I had AOL. Now, on a good server, I can hit around 5.2kbps.
posted by CrayDrygu at 5:55 PM on January 12, 2001


Cray, you need to get broadband. With a good server I can download 250KBytes/second with my cable modem.

sob my Time-Warner sniffle RoadRunner cable modem... moan

[A point of usage: by convention a lower case b means "bits" and an upper case B means "bytes". If you're only getting 5.2 kilobits per second, you really need broadband.]
posted by Steven Den Beste at 6:17 PM on January 12, 2001


Bay, you're exempt from the criticism, obviously, since you're the one that broadened the topic in the first place. But everywhere else it's just AOL, AOL, AOL, and I don't see why I should be any *more* alarmed about AOLTW than I am about DisneyCapCitiesABC.

I confess I only skimmed the Frankston piece--didn't seem like anything that hasn't already been said AND I'm in general agreement with it anyway. My question is, are we concerned because too few hands own too many of our sources of information (and because their "competition" is more like copulation)? Or are we really just doing the techie knee-jerk anti-AOL thing? You can guess which I think is more productive.
posted by rodii at 6:48 PM on January 12, 2001


Actually, when Disney acquired the ABC network, there was a lot of wailing and nashing of teeth, too. I think why AOL/Time-Warner is getting attention is that it was just approved. The other megamergers you describe got their share of bitching at the time that they were created.

Besides, it's fun to take potshots at AOL. It's such an easy target to hit. [grin]
posted by Steven Den Beste at 8:02 PM on January 12, 2001


Actually, I started this thread anticipating it to be a funny-thread, not a serious-discussion-thread, and mostly that's what it's been. (I tried to set the mood with my "We're all doomed" comment, which was clearly facetious.)

On a more serious note though, the actual ramifications of this are probably not very great, except to AOL subscribers. Most of the rest of us won't notice anything. Not even me. The concern I originally had was that Time-Warner would force me to get an AOL account for my cable modem instead of continuing to use the local server here in San Diego for news and mail (which is all I use their servers for). But one of the conditions the FCC placed on the merger was that they open up access to the broadband networks they own; it may even be good for me. We'll see. I'll be happy if I can just keep my existing email address which I've had for four years.

AOL subscribers are probably going to get access to all the online Time-Warner content I could use now but don't. That's the biggest change I anticipate. RR has a web server with a lot of material on it which is only accessible to those of us on its own network. But I haven't ever found much on it that interested me.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 8:12 PM on January 12, 2001


CrayDrygu,

The variance in download speeds you experienced probably had more to do with the particular POP you were dialing into, as opposed to the ISP to which you were subscribing.

It is a little known fact that there are only about six different TCP/IP backbones in the world, and the various ISPs share them (as do ATM machines and credit card services).

That is how it happens that in some cases, a person can cancel their AOL account out of frustration over data transfer rates, call Earthlink to sign up for service, and be given the same access number that they used with AOL.

There are other factors that control data transfer. Most of them are local to your machine, or your neighborhood, or your state. But the brand name that you subscribe to makes absolutely no difference. You are still using the same nationwide network.
posted by Optamystic at 12:35 AM on January 13, 2001


Most of the rest of us won't notice anything.

That's probably true -- Consolidated Media will continue to eat itself, but the manufacture of consent is already about as efficient as it gets. It's worth hearing what Robert McChesney has to say about the matter, though. And it's really too bad they didn't open up their IM system -- that hurts everybody.
posted by sudama at 3:00 PM on January 14, 2001


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