|Dates:||1991 - present|
|Type:||E-mail, Web Browsing, Web Hosting|
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AOL, originally known as America Online, is a web portal and online service provider, it was very popular in the 1990's and early 2000s.
AOL Hometown was a web hosting service offered by AOL, it offered 12 megabytes of server space for AOL subscribers to publish their own websites, that began in 1998. Fans often used the service to create fan sites dedicated to their favorite media and fandoms, or as personal fanworks archives. When the service was shut down in October 2008, a great many sites were lost.
AOL hosted chat rooms where people could have discussions online anonymously. These spaces were often used by fans to discuss their favorite media and find other fans with similar interests.
AIM or AOL Instant Messenger was a major realtime chat client. It eventually became available for non-AOL subscribers and was a major platform for fannish group chats in the 00s. Its major rival during this period (at least among fans in the US) was Y!M (Yahoo Messenger). AIM continued to be used, but saw increasing competition from gtalk and other platforms for fannish chats. AIM was eventually discontinued and taken offline in December of 2017.
Media fans on AOL had a form of mailing lists in which the owner would send daily/weekly/monthly issues; these could range from simple "file a day" lists to longer and more involved ones featuring all manner of informative and entertaining content. Anime mailing lists were especially popular, some even offering movies or episodes or manga scanslations to fans looking for content beyond whatever their local TV stations had to offer. As these lists could fill up quickly with members, owners would have to sign up with AOL's "white list" in order to avoid being logged off for mass e-mailing.
Reception of AOL users on other platforms
While AOL was very popular, its users were considered a lower class among internet spaces such as forums, newsgroups, and message boards. This was due to the fact that a large number of users were teenagers or children, or just plain new to the internet and netiquette in general; older and more experienced internet users were not very kind or patient with those who took too long to learn the rules or made too many gaffes, calling them "AOLamers" and other such nicknames. Even those who used AOL but still had a good grasp of things were picked on simply for using the service.
Problems with the service
A good number of AOL members were known to badmouth the service, due to its unstable connection and how it felt lacking compared to other internet services. Because AOL was geared towards all ages, kids included, there was a lot of censorship going on; even terms such as "horsemen" were not allowed in user profiles as it contained the word "semen".
The service's newsgroup reader was also heavily stripped down, users couldn't upload binary files or have the long signatures that were well-loved by members on other services.