AOL's Case February Letter to Members
February 1, 1996
America Online reaches yet another milestone this month, as we welcome our
five millionth member. To put this in perspective, AOL is now among the
largest "cities" in the world; more people live in the AOL community than in
the metro areas of San Francisco, Madrid, or Sydney (and larger than the
city populations of Los Angeles and Chicago). And more people now subscribe
to AOL than to The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and The New York Times
COMBINED. So the recent growth has been phenomenal and I'd like to thank
each and every one of you for your continued support and enthusiasm.
To help manage the growth, we have just hired Bill Razzouk to be our Chief
Operating Officer, responsible for all of the day-to-day operations of the
company. Bill comes to us from Federal Express, where he headed worldwide
operations. FedEx has established a reputation as a leader in quality, so as
we continue to focus on improving quality at AOL, we are pleased to welcome
Bill to our team.
This month I'd like to talk about the Internet. There's a lot of debate
these days about how the online services industry will evolve, and in
particular what role the Internet will play over time. I wanted to provide
you with our perspective on this topic, and then tell you about a related
event that we're proud to be associated with.
While some have come to believe that there's an inherent competitiveness
between online services and the Internet, our view is they are highly
synergistic. For most of the past decade, the online services industry and
the Internet have evolved and grown on parallel paths. In the past two
years, those paths have converged, to provide "best of breed" unified
offerings. For example, AOL is now a superset of the Internet -- we provide
an on ramp to the Internet, and a whole lot more.
At AOL, we've tried to keep a careful eye on the needs of our customers and
are always focused on ways we can make the interactive experience more fun,
friendly and engaging -- independent of the tools or technologies that we are
leveraging. We see the Internet as an increasingly important piece of the
puzzle, but not the puzzle itself. The Internet is a platform, a set of
technologies, a network of networks. We embrace the Internet, and focus our
efforts on adding value on top of the base level platform, so we can excite
the imaginations of millions of people. When watching television, we don't
really care how the program is transmitted to us, because the technology is
largely invisible; we just want good programs to watch. Similarly, our goal
at AOL is to ensure you have the best experience online, without worrying
about the technology and how the information is delivered.
Our members have told us they want access to a broad range of content,
presented in an engaging way, easy-to-use, affordably priced, and with a
strong underlying sense of community. These factors are the underpinnings
to our success, because our members have, in turn, brought other members
online. Where the content resides, which network you happen to be using, or
which technology is employed are not the issues -- you care more about what
you get than how you get it.
So we've seamlessly integrated the vast content of the Internet with the
ease, simplicity and engaging presentation of America Online to offer an
enhanced interactive experience. For someone wanting sports information
today, for instance, they'll find a rich collection of compelling content
that blends the best of the Internet -- such as the popular ESPN Web site and
USA Today Sports Page, with the vast array of content provided by AOL's
partners such as the NFL, ABC Sports, iGolf and others -- all brought
together in one comprehensive, easy-to-find and easy-to-use area. And we
have designed AOL to work well with standard modems; most would agree that
the Web realistically requires a 28.8 kpbs or faster modem, which only a
minority of consumers have, while AOL works quite well at 14.4 and even 2400.
This strategy has catapulted AOL into the lead as the world's most popular
online service -- and has also made us the world's leading Internet provider.
Every day we process more than 28 million hits on the Web. We deliver
e-mail to 4 million people (half of which is Internet mail). And more than 5
million newsgroup articles are read each day by AOL members.
For more sophisticated users who find themselves spending a significant
amount of their time on the Web, AOL recently launched a second brand, GNN.
In just 3 months, GNN has already become the nation's second largest
Internet-only brand. Although we continue to focus most of our attention on
AOL, as we believe millions of people need a service like AOL, we are pleased
to also be able to serve the needs of the growing Internet-only segment of
the market with GNN.
This discussion relates to an event this month that celebrates the growth of
online services and the Internet.
"24 Hours in Cyberspace: Painting on the Walls of the Digital Cave" is the
name given to the event that, beginning this month, will showcase the people
that make up cyberspace. After all, cyberspace is about people: their
thoughts, ideas, and experiences. Photojournalist Rick Smolan and his
company, Against All Odds, are spearheading '24 Hours in Cyberspace,' a
worldwide effort to collect stories and photographs of people in cyberspace
and to portray how this medium has affected their lives. AOL is a co-sponsor
of this event, joining such companies as Eastman Kodak, Adobe Systems, and
You may have seen Rick and his team's work in the best-selling book, 'A Day
in the Life of America,' as well as 'From Alice to Ocean,' and 'Passage to
Vietnam.' We're proud to have joined Rick and his team in this monumental
February 8 has been selected as the day when 1,000 photographers -- including
100 of the world's top photojournalists -- fan out around the globe,
documenting how this interactive digital revolution has changed our lives.
It's the one day that will capture the images, spirit, and imagination of
those who have found this medium to be engaging, educational, interactive,
participatory, artful, and intimate. AOL members, photojournalists, and
others on the Web will send stories to sites on AOL and the Web.
As part of the event, AOL will host the '24 Hour Lunch' in AOL Live where
you'll interact with photographers and participants at lunch time (in their
time zone) around the clock. The 24 Hour Lunch will mark the biggest one-day
online event ever.
This phenomenal project will result in: 1) the launch of a new area on
America Online -- 'The Faces of AOL' -- which will reflect AOL members'
online experiences through stories and photos, with topics ranging from love
and friendship to heroes and miracles; 2) the '24 Hours in Cyberspace' Web
site, to include excerpts from the event; 3) a combination book/CD-ROM
package, due to be published later this year.
So, I hope you'll participate with us February 8, and take part in this
historic venture, one of the largest photographic projects ever attempted.
Send in your photos and essays about your experiences in cyberspace. Prior
to that day, go to keyword CYBER24 for more details!
HERE ARE SOME HIGHLIGHTS FOR THIS MONTH:
parentsoup (keyword PARENTSOUP)
Our friends at iVillage have introduced a dynamite area for parents to learn,
share, commiserate, and have some fun. A completely original creation,
developed by and for parents, parentsoup is dedicated to all parents with
kids of all ages (not just for moms and babies). Can't get your two year old
to sleep? Sibling rivalry in your house? Your oldest just learned to drive,
and wants to borrow the car...NOW? No issue is too big or too small to
handle, with tips offered by pediatricians, psychologists, authors, and child
development experts you can relate to...other parents! Weekly live chats,
contests, message boards, consultations (including an on-call pediatrician),
information, support, horoscopes, and more.
Women's Interests (keyword WOMEN)
America Online continues to roll out new areas of interest that reflect the
diversity of our membership. This month, we're pleased to launch Women's
Interests, with places to talk, to share, to learn, to support each other, to
read, to look, and to react. You can explore everything from health and
political issues to relationships and how-to's.
Online Music Awards (keyword OMA)
Thousands of you submitted nominations and ballots for the First Annual
Online Music Awards (OMA's), making it an overwhelming success. We'll be
announcing the winners in AOL Live on Awards Night, February 5, at 9 p.m.
EST. Thomas Dolby will emcee the event with a handful of special guest
appearances from some of the nominees. This is the biggest online music
event of the year, so don't miss it -- exclusively on AOL.
NetNoir (keyword NETNOIR)
In celebration of Black History Month, NetNoir and AOL feature exciting and
informative programming throughout February. Historical events and people
will be highlighted daily. Chat with notable African-American personalities,
from politicians and academics to entertainment and sports figures. Check
your knowledge with Net Noiris and NTN's trivia challenge. There's a lot
more to explore, too, including an essay contest for kids, book lists,
message boards, downloads and an online marketplace.
University of California Extension (keyword UCX)
Now you can sign up for one of the dozens of accredited and professional
courses offered by the University of California Extension. Work toward a
degree, further your professional knowledge, meet other students, all without
carrying that backpack. A great university, opening its doors to AOL
Reference Desk (keyword REFERENCE)
Our Reference Desk has added a wide variety of new and informative resources
in the past few months. Responding to your requests, we're proud to announce
that we now have a national telephone directory, Pro CD (keyword WHITE
PAGES), that includes residential and business listings in the United States.
Also, you can access directory information on over 10 million businesses
online using the ABI Yellow Pages (keyword YELLOW PAGES). Our Reference Desk
also will point you to key web sites which list 800 numbers and zip codes.
If you're new to cyberspace, you may be having a tough time learning the
terminology. Let Que's Computer and Internet Dictionary (keyword QUES
DICTIONARY) help you make sense of the jargon.
There are two new educational resources you should know about: The
Dictionary of Cultural Literacy (keyword DCL) and Grolier's Multimedia
Encyclopedia (keyword GROLIERS). For students, trivia buffs, or those
seeking personal enrichment, both will come in handy. Grolier's has over
30,000 articles and 5,000 pictures.
Contest Area (keyword CONTEST)
We've answered the call, 'put all your contests in one central place.' Here
you'll find all the great contests going on around the service, located in
the contest 'envelope.' They're listed alphabetically, and by contest type
(essay, artistic, photo, etc.). We also highlight the day's hot contest,
plus remind you of which contests are wrapping up (click on Last Chance on
the Contest form). Look for the envelope with your name on it, and enter a
Tax Forum (keyword TAX)
The 1996 Tax Season is upon us, and AOL has many resources devoted to
taxpayer information. Check out advice forums from NAEA and Taxlogic, or
download Federal Tax forms and publications. Read up on the latest tax code
changes in the online version of the Ernst and Young Tax Guide. In addition,
you'll find TaxCut and Intuit software support, tax shareware, websites,
news, and more!
Company Research (keyword COMPANY)
Many of you have explored our Company Research area in the Personal Finance
channel. Be sure to check the Company Spotlight. Twice a week we highlight
an industry or company in the news and provide relevant articles, SEC
reports, earnings estimates, stock reports, Web links and more. Articles are
culled from our numerous partners, like Business Week, IBD, Reuters,
Morningstar, Disclosure, First Call, Prophet, and writer Bob Beaty.
Legal Pad (keyword LEGAL PAD)
Get pertinent advice and helpful information from Legal Pad, AOL's new
consumer-focused legal forum. Interact with a pair of real lawyers --
editors Martin Dean & Eli Roth -- who provide their spin on breaking legal
news. "Ask A Lawyer" can help you get answers to questions by attorneys in
your area. Check the 'Legal Directory' for local representation, legal
experts and law-related services.
Bank of America (keyword B OF A)
Bank of America debuted just last month as AOL's first full-service banking
partner in the Personal Finance channel. From home loans to budget tools to
a handy moving checklist, the Bank of America area serves all members with
banking needs, including college students (see the Student Union section).
Thereis a comprehensive listing of Bank of America ATM locations, and coming
this spring, home banking using AOL.
Skiing: The Ski Zone (keyword SKI ZONE) and iSKI (keyword ISKI)
With most of us just getting out of the Blizzard of '96, skiing is definitely
top of mind. Visit both areas. The Ski Zone is from our Travel Channel,
full of information on ski towns around the world, good family ski areas, and
ski packages available for purchase. iSki comes to us from the creators of
iGolf - Interzine Productions - an AOL Greenhouse partner. The iSki
'SnoMads' are a bunch of ski nuts who offer first-hand reports on resorts,
conditions, and the interesting characters they find on the slopes. It's
just like cozying up in front of the fire at the lodge with some friends.
Astronet (Keyword ASTRONET)
Explore a whole new world of astrology at ASTRONET, brought to you by the AOL
Greenhouse. Much more in-depth than checking your horoscopes in the morning
newspaper! Is this the day to ask for a raise? When should you schedule
that hot date or big meeting? Get regularly updated forecasts by The Cosmic
Muffin, AOL's own Carole2000 and Kramer's Fishing Guide To The Stars. Access
your own astro-chart data and real-time personal interpretations. The
answers are in the stars, and on America Online.
Extreme Fans College Hoops (keyword EXTREME FANS)
College basketball coverage will never be the same. Extreme Fans College
Hoops, new from our Greenhouse, is the platform for our sports fans to voice
their extreme opinions. Get the latest stats on the top 70 men's and women's
basketball programs in the country, take part in the daily poll, trade barbs
in the Interactive TrashTalk arena, or play the Extreme contests. It's
another great AOL Greenhouse product.
Metropolitan Home (keyword MET HOME)
A new addition to the Clubs & Interests channel, here you'll find the best in
interior design and architecture, plus trends in food, gardening, furniture,
collecting, and ecological design. "Take Note" is full of news about latest
home products and money-saving tips. The "Metro" section will introduce you
to the best new hotels, restaurants, shops and museum exhibitions throughout
the country and abroad. You'll get travel tips, too, with regular "City
Reports" and occasional shopping roundups from San Francisco and Chicago to
London and Paris.
AOL Launches in the UK and Canada (keywords INTERNATIONAL, UK, CANADA)
This month, we're making major strides on the international front. Along
with our partner, Bertelsmann, we've officially launched AOL in the United
Kingdom, the second of our international services. It's just like AOL as you
know it, but the language and content are strictly British. Encourage the
Brits you know to sign up, and start chatting with them in real time.
If you use our Windows software, you can access the entire AOL UK service
(and soon AOL Germany and AOL France) simply by navigating to the AOL UK main
menu. No special software is required! To get to the UK main menu, use
keyword INTERNATIONAL and then just click on the UK flag.
We've also officially launched AOL Canada, a service aimed at Canadian
consumers featuring local Canadian content, message boards and chat. Members
will find a full array of content, from news, sports, weather, finance,
travel, and the arts, plus links to Web sites from well-respected cultural
institutions, like the Montreal Museum of Art and the Vancouver Opera.
MuchMusic, the popular Canadian music TV network, is a key partner, bringing
music programming, hit lists, and audio and video downloads (keyword
MUCHMUSIC). If you are a Canadian, have relatives in Canada, or are planning
a vacation north of the border, check out AOL Canada at keyword CANADA.
To find out more about our international efforts - including our
recently-launched German service and the upcoming French service - go to
AOLGLOBALnet (keyword AOLGLOBALNET) and AOLnet (keyword AOLNET)
AOLGLOBALnet keeps expanding. Weive just added 12 countries in this
hemisphere to our international access network. So if you're traveling to
Central or South America, or have friends and relatives there, check out
keyword AOLGLOBALNET for more information. AOLnet is still growing rapidly,
too. We've now reached over 268 cities with 351 phone numbers, and
additional modems have been placed in many cities to help alleviate busy
signals when you connect. Join the huge number of members who have switched
to AOLnet - offering a faster, more reliable connection to AOL at no
additional charge - by going to keyword ACCESS.
BEST OF THE REST.....
Pick up some great Valentine's Day gifts at keyword SHOP....from February
12th through the 21st, see the special Sneak Preview of the new Disney.com
web site. We'll have a special contest and prizes for AOL members, plus a
series of AOL Live events featuring Mickey Mouse, Minnie, Miss Piggy and
other favorite characters making their cyberspace debut on AOL....America
Online joined with PC Financial Network (keyword PCFN) to raise over $84,000
for Ronald McDonald Children's Charities. Donations were placed for every
online stock trade executed between December 15 and January 15....ExpressNet
from American Express introduces its latest feature, Merchant Services
Online. Now merchants can easily access their establishment's financial
statements, Cardmember inquiries and e-mail from service
representatives....At keyword MEN, best-selling author Dr. John Gray ('Men
Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus') explores the differences between the
sexes and how to understand one another....Find the new Merrill Lynch area at
keyword ML, for information on financial planning, research, and
seminars....Ferndale, the first interactive soap opera on AOL and the Web, is
hopping with town gossip and intrigue. Read the residents' journals, listen
to their conversations, and drive the plot. Keyword FERNDALE (Windows
only)....Take a new look at Hollywood Online, with multimedia sneak peeks of
new movies, online interviews with the stars, and message boards where the
insiders meet. Keyword HOLLYWOOD....Trivia buffs living on the edge will find
a home with Antagonistis Trivia, keyword AT.....AOL, Princess Cruises & the
Cruise Critic bring you the AOL Member Cruise! Join your online friends for
the 7-night Caribbean cruise leaving from Ft. Lauderdale on March 31st. Wish
I could join you! Bon voyage at keyword CRUISE....
P.S. Keywords are easy and fun to use. Either click on the words 'Go To' at
the top of this screen and then click on the word Keyword, or use your
keyboard: on Windows, hold down the Ctrl and K keys; on Mac, hold down the
Command and K keys... And a friendly reminder: never give out your password
or billing information to anyone online.
See you next month!