Well, shit. I was hoping this was going to turn into a good-old-fashioned AOL roast.
Since it’s all nice-nice, I can provide some answers. (Provided everybody understands that I am not a customer, neither endorse nor disavow the product, may or may not hold a long or short position in AOL’s securities or that of its competitors and about ten other things I’m too lazy to type tonight)
First, inertia. Many computer sellers pre-install AOL on disk drives, and you’ve obviously seen the disks. AOL is most people’s first entry to on-line anything, and they stick with it. BTW, did you know that fully 1/3 of the households in the United States never switched from ATT’s basic rate plan after Ma Bell broke up? Inertia, sadly, is one of the most powerful forces at work in American consumerism.
Second, cost of switching. For most people, the cost of switching isn’t much more than a mass email telling everyone about your new address. But a surprising number of computer users never install anything on their computers, and most of the rest of the users need their hands held. Many smaller ISP’s don’t have good “first-time” interfaces.
Third, size. Everybody else is on AOL, so if you use the internet primarily for simple communication, AOL can be the place to be. This is why AOL is defending its proprietary IM system so rabidly. If you can IM an AOL user from elsewhere, why be on AOL?
Fourth, content. AOL pays for exclusive and semi-exclusive content (including, until recently, this MB). They do a pretty good job of categorizing it for the novice user who wouldn’t even know where to start with a search engine (even Yahoo).
Fifth, protection. This is kind of a canard because it doesn’t work, but users of AOL and other content-added companies can generally set up “accounts” so that Dad can go to the smutty stuff but Junior is supposed to be locked out.
Sixth, consistency. Some advanced users have had their ISPs go out of business or get absorbed into a larger company. This means the whole e-mail address hassle. You can be confident that your AOLdotCom address isn’t going to change.
Sorry this post is too long.
Now let the flaming begin!
Livin’ on Tums, Vitamin E and Rogaine