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Kasuto's Ramblings

AOL is not the Internet! It's not even close!
A semi-serious criticism of America Online.

      I'm about as disgusted as a vegetarian in a slaughterhouse about America Online. I have kept quiet about this for quite a while, but I can keep quiet no longer! Those corporate bureaucrats at AOL headquarters (who may or may not actually be clones of Al Gore) cannot silence me. AOL is simply a poor excuse for an online service and an Internet service provider. It does not, and never has, live up to my expectations. Yes, I'm sorry to say that I was once an AOL user. I used it but I did not inhale! When I first got a computer nearly six years ago, I was only vaguely aware of the Internet. I knew it existed, and I wanted desperately to use it. Back then, AOL either didn't exist or it was very small (I think it was the former). There were very few choices for online services back then, mainly Prodigy and Compuserve (which was devoured by AOL some time ago). I, or more accurately my parents, chose Compuserve. I have to say, it was a very fast and reliable service. Back then, they charged by the hour. A flat rate was unheard of. We happily used Compuserve until we started getting bills that were in the $100+ range, I had become an Internet junkie. As a side note, when I say "Internet" I mean the world-wide-web, I never used any of the Compuserve-only services, I only used it as a portal to the Web. I went crazy after our service was cancelled, I had to find another way to get on the Internet for cheaper! Internet withdrawal is not a fun experience. Finally, we decided to get AOL, which we so many people were raving about. The $20 per month flat fee was the clincher. Finally, I had service again.
      I used AOL for nearly a year, and I ignored the many problems with it. I guess I was blinded by my need for the Internet, AOL was my cheapest fix so I used it. Of course we all knew about the hassle of having to dial-up a hundred times just to get connected, and having to click that damn 49-minute disconnect warning box. But I gritted my teeth and beared with it, hoping some day that something better would come along. Alas, that day finally came. I happened to stumble upon the web site of a company called Net Zero, which provided FREE Internet service. I couldn't believe my eyes: I could get my Internet fix for free, and all I had to do was deal with a dinky little advertising box. The day I cancelled AOL and first sign on to Net Zero was an epiphany for me; the Internet has never been the same. I am proud to say I began using Net Zero a couple years before they first advertised on TV.
      I was lucky to have broken free from AOL's merciless grip. But there are others who are not so lucky. Now I will get to why you are all reading this: why I HATE America Online. Simply put, AOL is the most unreliable, over-hyped, piece-of-crap "Internet provider" I have ever seen. It gets its customers through deceptive advertisments and an endless barrage of AOL disks. What follows is a breakdown of why AOL sucks and should be deleted from the human consciousness.
      AOL is an Internet service provider, right? Wrong! Contrary to what you may believe, AOL does not connect you to the Internet. People who "browse the Net" with AOL are in fact only seeing what they let you see. That's right, AOL can and does control the web sites you can visit. How do they do this? It's simple. When you connect to America Online, you are dialing into their computer system. As long as your modem is on, you are in AOL's computers, not on the Internet. You "browse the Internet" through what is called a proxy server. A proxy server is a computer that acts as a buffer between one terminal (you) and another (the Internet). When you start the browser and click on links the request for the webpage is sent to AOL's computers. The AOL computers then request the page from the Internet, and then send it to you. When you browse on AOL, you are browsing second-hand. You can only see what AOL's computers want you to see. Anything they consider "objectionable" can be censored from you as long as you are connected to AOL's computers. That means that ignorant users of AOL aren't surfing the same Internet as the rest of us. It's like a nation-wide "Net Nanny". They can block any site they want. You might be wondering "but what if I just start up Netscape and use that? Then I'm not using AOL's browser." Wrong! If you try to use an outside browser, you have to configure it to be used with a proxy server. Why? Because you are not on the Internet. When you connect to AOL, you are simply another computer in their system. When you log on to another ISP, they are simply a hub you can retrieve information through. Other services (e.g. Net Zero) actually connect your computer to the Internet. With other services, you have a direct connection to the Internet. That means there are no barriers between you and The whole basis of the Internet is something aptly named "Internet Protocol." Every computer connected to the Internet is assigned a unique Internet Protocol number that looks like this: "" These numbers identify your computer to the rest of the world. Did you know that web addresses like "" aren't actually the locations for the computers? Yahoo's IP address is actually, that is the number that is assigned to Yahoo's computers. Go ahead, type "" into the URL bar and see what happens. When you type "", what happens is that your computer asks various central directories what IP number corresponds to "" and it redirects you to it. So what does all this mean? When you log onto AOL your computer is not assigned an IP number. The closest thing you have to an IP is whatever AOL's central computers number is. They access the Internet for you, and cut out the stuff they don't want you to see. So if you want to actually connect to the Internet, get another ISP.
      What about the service itself? Well, I have to say I was disappointed when I first logged on to AOL (after trying to dial in a hundred times, of course). All these woderful services they touted were simply ploys. I didn't find any useful services on AOL itself, I used the Internet only. Whatever wonderful service you find on AOL, I can find a hundred better ones on the Web. Shopping? Let's see, there's Amazon,, Yahoo, E-Bay, and a million others. Online dictionaries? Try Encycopedias? Encyclopędia Britannica has an online version and so does World Book. Almanacs? How about Notice a pattern here? No matter what crappy excuses for "services" AOL has, I can find better ones on the Web. Oh, but what about chat rooms? Try typing "chat" into a search engine. I got 6482 matches from Yahoo. Plus, most of these chat rooms don't kick you off if you say a bad word. That's another thing I hate about AOL: their damn "Terms of Service." They give you about fifty trillion words of nonsensical legal ramblings that I can sum up into just a few words: "We own you. And you will do what we tell you." Their policies on vulgarity and whatnot are so open-ended and nonspecific that just about anything can be used as a reason to get you kicked off. They kick people off for stupid reasons, yet they turn their backs on the violations they should be paying attention to. You may be shocked by what I am about to say, but it is true. AOL has a feature called "private chat rooms", which are unmonitored and unregulated. You might think it's great that there are chat rooms without people spying on you. But do you know what goes on in those chat rooms? It's not petty stuff like dumbasses typing lines of nonsense or horny teenagers trying to have cybersex. It is something far more disgusting and repugnant. Sometimes you might hear on the news about a pedophile that was arrested for trying to solicit sex from a little girl who was actually a police officer under cover. Where do these exchanges take place? In private chat rooms. And what does AOL do? "We'll look into it". That's they're way of saying "We're going to ignore it and let it continue to happen with full knowledge of what's going on, and we're not going to do a damn thing about it." That is exactly what they do. But pedophiles getting arrested for trying to hook up with a little kid is not the worst thing that goes on. While practices like this are apalling, only very rarely does a pedophile actually get so far as to have access to a child through the Internet. It almost never happens. The news just makes it seem like a bigger problem than it actually is. The real problem of private chat rooms is far more repugnant. It is the most disgusting thing that exists on the Internet: child pornography. Chat rooms on AOL are one of the largest forums for the distribution of kiddie-porn. Morally apalling AOL members freely exchange sexually explicit pictures of little kids every day. This is a pratice that must be stopped, but AOL does nothing. They freely allow this to go on, and they know this is happening. By burying their heads in the sand and ignoring the problem, they are in effect willingly supporting the distribution of child pornography. So think about that next time you log on to AOL.
      Also, I hate the fact that AOL is simply annoying. For the years I had Compuserve, not once did I get a busy signal. I am absolutely serious, every time I dialed in I got connected without a busy signal. AOL? I got a busy signal every single time. Usually it took me ten tries, or even more. They have a serious bandwidth problem and they still haven't solved it. And what happens when I finally get connected? The first thing I see is a freakin' pop-up ad. Every time I clicked on a button another ad came up. And AOL's e-mail service is horribly antiquated. Until very recently, AOL-users couldn't send or receive HTML e-mail. That's just plain stupid. Whenever I logged on, I heard "you've got mail!" in that annoyingly cheerful voice that makes me wish I was deaf. I anxiously clicked on the message, hoping for something good. What do I get? Ads, ads, ads!!! I usually had to delete twenty of them everyday. And you know what else? If you go into just about any AOL chat room, you are automatically putting yourself on spam mailing lists. The final reason that we got rid of AOL was the fact that my little brother got about five porn e-mails a day, even after we complained.
      The most annoying thing ever about AOL are the mother-f***ing (I don't want to offend youngsters) disks! Everywhere I go, literally, I see an AOL disk. I get them in the mail every week. I seem them in magazines, in books, on shelves at stores, and even in boxes of cereal. There are more AOL disks out there than there are people to use them! It kind of makes you wonder why the hell they're putting out so many in the first place. Isn't millions of users enough? Why do they need more? For the love of God, they can't handle the number of customers they have already. What the hell are they thinking trying to get more? Whatever they're smoking over at AOL headquarters must be some strong stuff. Maybe if they put their money into upgrading their computers, they wouldn't have to get new customers through a flood of disks. I seriously wonder how much money they spend on making millions of disks every year. The board of directors should be shot for wasting natural resources on making millions of useless disks. Think of how much space they take up in landfills. Those disks could have useful stuff on them like music, encyclopedias, dictionaries, or games. Instead they're wasted. The only use for AOL CD-ROMs is as frisbees or drink coasters. But the floppies do have one use: looking at solar eclipses. I'm totally serious, stack 2 disks on top of each other, open the little metal doors, and stare through the opening. They disk material darkens the light enough so it doesn't blind you. I tried this with the eclipse that was on Christmans Day. But that's beside the point, our resources should not be wasted to make millions of frisbees and eclipse-viewers. They should put all their money into improving service.
      And what about those commercials? Year after year I keep hearing about the wonderful brand new version of AOL. "Try brand new version 3.0, 4.0, 5.0, 6.0", and on and on and on. And you know what? Absolutely nothing changes between versions. All they do is change the pictures on the buttons and make it harder to unistall it. And every single time they say these exact words: "The easiest has just gotten easier! Try new version x!". Please tell me, how can AOL keep getting easier every single time they come out with a new version? I mean, you have to draw the line somewhere. After a while, it'll be so easy that it can't possibly get any easier. So I decided to find out exactly how easy AOL 6.0 really is. After six versions, my calculations (which was a very complicated process including lots of calculators, computers, and little bottles of different-colored liquids boiling over Bunsen burners) indicated that AOL 6.0 should be so easy that I shouldn't actually have to do anything. So, when I got an AOL CD in the mail, I put it to the test. I took the CD case, unwrapped the plastic and placed it on top of my computer desk. Then I waited.and waited. Nothing happened. Judging by the commercials, the disk should be capable of growing legs, opening the CD drive, climbing inside, and then it should install itself and connect me to AOL without any help from me. Imagine my surprise when I got back from the crapper to discover that the CD didn't grow legs, and it didn't install itself. Damn, I guess it's not that easy. So then I got to thinking, expecting the disk to grow legs might be a little overkill. Then I thought: my dog is really smart, she should be able to figure it out. Believe me, I have an intelligent dog. She has a large vocabulary which includes "mommy, baby, bacon, bye-bye, and squirrel" among others. So if AOL is so easy, surely my dog will be surfing the Net in no time! I guess not. I called my dog and she came running happily, expecting food. I put the disk in front of her and she sniffed it for a moment and then began to stare at me. She was obviously not impressed by this piece of plastic. Her expression seemed to say: "What the hell is this? I was expecting a treat and you give me a piece of plastic?" So she whined for a minute, thinking that I was joking. But once she realized that I in fact had no food, she left and went about her normal daily routine (which involves mostly hoarding dirty socks and taking them under the bed). So my dog, who is more intelligent than the average AOLer, could not figure it out. So I have decided that I will not deem AOL "easy" until my dog can use it. Here's a good idea: make the disks out of hog anus so we can feed it to the dog as a treat. Now that would be an efficient use of resources.
      And now for the coup de grace: users of America Online. First of all, I will say that I am about to bash AOLers, not users of AOL. There is a difference. An AOL user is simply a normal person who has been misguided by AOL's evil advertising campaign. They have been tricked into thinking that AOL is the Internet. They have been brainwashed and I feel sorry for them. Hopefully, those innocent little old ladies will find out that there are things better than AOL. An AOLer is a disgusting, perverted, brain-dead moron who believes that America Online is the greatest thing since sliced bread. They act like idiots and they are idiots. AOLers have IQs that are less than or equal to cinder-blocks. In fact, I met a cinder block once who was very intelligent. But I have also held "conversations" with AOLers that made me wonder if they are actually Colobus monkeys that escaped from a viral research lab. AOLers have the amazing ability to actually transmit stupidity. That means that you can become dumber by corresponding with them. Talking to an AOLer for one minute is equivalent to inhaling an entire 55-gallon drum of industrial-strength paint thinner.
      I would like to close by saying one last thing. If you're a normal person who uses AOL, for the love of everything sacred, get a new service. You will be much better of using any other service, even if you have to pay for it.
MSN is $6.95 a month, and Net Zero is free (up to 40 hours). Also, try FreeLane which is free for unlimited use, but it only has a few access numbers in states outside the west coast (I live in a suburb of Chicago, and I have one local access number). If you are an innocent AOL user who is ignorant of the truth, hopefully your eyes will be opened and you will see the light. If you're an AOLer, may God have mercy on your soul.

Kasuto of Kataan

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