Tuesday, October 24, 2006

AOL Webmail:
Like Watching Paint To Dry

I just discovered that AOL (yes, America Online) now offers a free web-based e-mail service similar to Hotmail. So I thought, "Hey, maybe I'll sign up. After all, it's free, right? And one can always use another e-mail address and more storage."

Also, the 8 digits in "" are shorter than the 12 digits in "", so I figured it would be easier to fit my e-mail address on business cards if I signed up for their service.

Bad idea. After all, it is AOL, the company which infamously clutters up its proprietary "browser" (if that's the right word for the screen you see when you first log in, if you use the company as your Internet Service Provider) with all kinds of useless things you don't need. Internet Explorer isn't perfect, but give me Internet Explorer any day, compared with AOL's program. AOL has revised their program over and over again and sent out countless CDs to potential subscribers, and they still can't do it right. It's useable, but that's about all you can say for it.

How do I know this? Because several years ago, I briefly decided to sign up for their Internet access services, mainly because I was going through financial difficulties which attracted me to the idea of getting the first 30 days or 60 days of service free and being able to cancel at the end of that time. I was never so glad to cancel service with any company in my life. As soon as I could do so, I signed up with an ISP that actually seemed to know what users needed.

Fortunately, AOL didn't hassle me when I called to cancel the service at the end of the trial period. I'd be willing to bet they've had a lot of experience when it comes to cancelling users' services.

More recently, I've found myself using AOL on rare occasions because I've had to go online using a friend's computer, and he uses AOL. AOL's service has improved since the time when the company was my ISP, but only a little bit.

But anyway, back to their free e-mail service. The first time I logged into the service after signing up for it just now, I discovered that it takes forever for just about every page to load.

Their webmail interface looks nice (and atypically neat and clean for something associated with AOL), but I could send three or four long messages from Hotmail in the amount of time it takes just to open the dialog box for sending a single e-mail message from the webmail service from AOL. No thank you, AOL!

About the only good thing I can say about the service is that since it's free, you don't have to use it after signing up for it. But save yourself some time and aggravation. Don't bother signing up for it in the first place.