Before AOL was AOL, it was CVC (Control Video Corporation). CVC had a single product called Gameline, which was offered to Atari 2600 gamers, who would buy a modem and download games temporarily for them to play. In May of 1983 Jim Kimsey joined their team as CEO, right when they were close to going under.
With Kimsey on board, he changed the direction that CVC was going in. Instead of focusing on online video game downloads, they shifted their focus on to offering online service for Commodore 64 and 128 models. They called the product- Q-Link in 1985. Q-Link was based off of PlayNet Inc.’s model. In 1988, they launched AppleLink with Apple, then later on also with IBM called PC Link.
In 1989, Apple and Q-Link ended their deal together and Q-Link became America Online (AOL).
In 1991, Kimsey left the CEO seat and went to sit at their board of chairmen. Steve Case became the CEO.
Also that year, AOL had its first public offering. During the early 1990’s, Prodigy and CompuServe held the top places as Internet service providers, and Case wanted to win that place.
He lowered the price to below their competitors and sent out thousands of free trail diskettes for new members. When 1993 was almost over, they had more than 600,000 members and users of their service.
With the success that AOL had in 1993, Microsoft co-founders both tried to buy AOL-which they failed to do, with Case blocking them from doing so. This lead Microsoft to creating Microsoft Network (MSN).
In 1994, AOL started buying up companies that would help them and their subscribers. Prior to that, they were considered a closed network, meaning that their users only had access to their what they offered them. By starting to buy up and connecting with other networks, they were able to offer more to the subscribers. This helped AOL to grow quickly.
By late summer 1996, they reached six million subscribers and that fall they started offering flat-rate monthly service fee of $19.95. They also hired MTV’s creator Bob Pittman, to help improve their brand and customer service. He later on became the president and chief operating officer, while Case gave up the title, he was still in those positions.
When 1997 came around, they gained 3 more million subscribers and CompuServe gained 2.6 million, though they maintained some of their independence. AOL’s stock rose in 1998 and 1999 over 600% and they bought Netscape Communication Corp. for $4.2 billion in stock. Their web portal and browser were included in the buy up. Sun Microsystems also was a third party during the acquisition.
In January of 2000, AOL announced that they wanted to buy up Time Warner Inc. After the merge, AOL lost its huge market and faced troubles with more companies competing with them and offering either a free or low-cost service. In 2006 AOL started to offer many of its services outside of their internet service, making it a latecomer to that market.
Since the many changes within AOL, we have watched them grow and fall like most companies. They were one of the first providers to offer internet service. AOL will always play a key role in the history in the internet and the future of the internet. Though most of the stuff they once offered for a fee, that they now offer for free, they still do offer internet provider service.