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AOL.com Paperback – June 29, 1999
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From the Inside Flap
In 1996, Kara Swisher, then a reporter at The Washington Post, was granted unprecedented access to one of the hottest and most closely watched companies in the world, America Online, Inc. In aol.com, Swisher has written a book that captures the secrets of how AOL beat the competition and became the world's biggest online company. Swisher also reveals the company's behind-the-scenes dealings with Microsoft cofounders Bill Gates and Paul Allen, CompuServe, Prodigy, Netscape, and the Christian Right.
Throughout its existence, AOL has repeatedly been written off by the media and the high-tech world. Bill Gates threatened to buy it or bury it. Deep-pocketed competitors such as CompuServe and Prodigy thought little of their smaller rival. And AOL made matters worse by committing a series of public-relations and technical blunders that became front page news and enraged its subscribers.
But the company--a "cyber-cockroach"--refused to die. Now, with over eleven million subscribers, AOL is the undisputed leader in the online world, vitally positioned at the nexus of big business, high tech, advertising, and new media. In telling the story of AOL, Swisher also conveys the fascinating history of the online business, which has its origins in the dreams of an eccentric and little-known entrepreneur named Bill Von Meister, whose grand ideas and big spending spawned the fledgling company that would become AOL. But it fell to a young marketing executive named Steve Case to build AOL while fending off an onslaught of wealthier competitors and suitors. Ultimately, as Swisher vividly illustrates, AOL gained supremacy because Case possessed the best vision for his company, establishing AOL as a vibrant virtual community rather than an online shopping center or business tool. Included in that community is an array of enthusiasts, activists, and deviants who at times clash in battles over freedom of expression and family values, a flash point best illustrated here by AOL's fight against the Communications Decency Act.
Re-creating all of the major moments in AOL's frenzied history, aol.com is a fascinating and important inside story about the birth of a new medium, the enterprising innovators who are leading it, and the way it is changing our culture.
About the Author
Kara Swisher has covered AOL and the Internet for the business section of The Washington Post since 1994. Now reporting on Silicon Valley for The Wall Street Journal, she lives in San Francisco.
Top customer reviews
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And they did crush CompuServ, as well as buy Netscape (the mind boggles).
So, I read the book. I have to admit, I still don't understand AOL especially well, but the book itself is absolutely fascinating.
It focuses on the old history of AOL, and the bits where CompuServ and Netscape run under the juggernaut are a mere footnote to the history proper, which delves deeply into the detail of how things started and zig-zagged from there.
I'd recommend this book to anyone who is even remotely interested in the Internet.
Just wish there was a kindle version.
Swisher supplies us with a very informative book about downfalls and pitfalls of this service. She illustrates the problems the creators went through within their company with other employees. It shows us the various mistakes the software has had over the years. Of course, it focuses on the competition (Bill Gates and MSN comes to mind) and AOL's most powerful source: Steve Case. It also illustrates the more obvious issues, like AOL's intense sexually-natured chat rooms and criminal activity among the members. It also discusses AOL's recent merger with Time Warner.
I urge AOLers to give this great book a whirl. I am glad I picked it up. Who knows, it may teach you a thing or two about becoming a software giant.
It's a good read for anyone, but if you're an AOL user, it'll give you a true insight into this important company. It's an easy, fast read, too, which you might not expect. The latest issue was updated once, through 1999. I'd love to see it updated again in a few months, to cover all the Time Warner stuff and many reorganizations that have gone on just lately.
The trend towards convergence of technologies, content and delivery, exponential growth of online users, bandwidth and processing constraints, the fierce fight for survival are all here in one book.
I look forward to one more book from Kara Swisher ( from where she has left) to tell us what is happening since then.