Verizon, which didn’t exist in AOL’s heyday, is buying AOL for a paltry $4.4 billion. That’s about 1/40 of what AOL itself paid to acquire Time Warner around the turn of the century. Today AOL is pretty much a joke and anyone who has an AOL email account is laughed at.
But consider what AOL did for us. In the early 1990s the PC revolution was well under way but PCs really didn’t have much use in the home, other than to play solitaire on. Along comes America Online with this thing called email and the world wide web. The most soothing and at the same time annoying sound was the sound of the dial up modem connecting you with the rest of the world. Then came instant messaging and mobility (sort of). True there were no cell phones yet but anywhere you had a computer with a connection to the Internet you were in touch.
What AOL and Yahoo accomplished was to define the Internet world as we know it today. Communication, content, video, social media all flow out of what AOL started. So while the AOL name is now a punchline and may someday fade away like Studebakers and Pan Am airlines, what AOL began will likely continue for decades.