There was a time, back in the day, when many millions of people thought AOL was the internet. It wasn’t then, and it’s definitely not so now.
If AOL is a cat it’s already used up more than nine lives. Yet, here’s AOL again with an update to AOL Desktop for Mac. It’s like having an anemic Fisher Price version of Yahoo! in an app on your Mac’s desktop. If there’s a reason to use AOL someone needs to tell us.
Back To The Future’s Past
Please forgive me. It isn’t my intent to be overly harsh with AOL for yet another version of a Desktop for Mac that truly hasn’t graduated much beyond 1998. I simply can’t help myself.
AOL Desktop for Mac, in the latest version, begs the question, “Why?”
If you don’t remember AOL, you haven’t missed much.
Move along. There’s nothing to see here.
If you used AOL, back in the last century and before most users abandoned AOL for the real internet, and you’re just curious about what it’s become, well, read on.
Walled Garden vs. Real World
AOL is a walled garden, scrubbed down, sterilized, sanitized, white-washed, mini-version of the internet. Whatever you can find on AOL is already on the internet times a gazillion.
The current claim to fame is a simple Mac (and Windows PC) app that gives you control over what you and family members can view, how you can interact with internet content and avoid the full web experience with all the dangers associated with such freedom.
Sign up and sign in. Install AOL Desktop for Mac and what do you get? A big, long, Fisher Price toolbar with just the functions AOL wants you to have.
Below the toolbar you also get a web browser. A very simple web browser.
Hey, it’s got tabs. You’ll like it. Click the Mail tab in the toolbar and what do you get? AOL Mail. With advertising.
If you like ads and spam, you’ll love AOL’s Mail.
Built-in to AOL Desktop for Mac is AOL’s instant messenger system, AIM, which resides in a long, familiar floating box.
Outside of that, most of the rest of AOL’s toolbar simply opens up in the browser. Click News. You get news in the browser. Click Music. You get music in the browser.
You get the idea. Much of AOL Desktop for Mac isn’t so much desktop as it is a browser window with sterilized, advertising laden AOL content.
Preferences are nominal, though, limited to a few General settings, Mail, AIM, Web, Users.
Parental Controls is the claim to fame for AOL Desktop for Mac. It’s a standalone window which creates a new user account on your Mac with pre-set controls, specifically aimed at children.
With AOL for Desktop running and Parental Controls set up, all other internet apps are disabled.
Your Mac becomes AOL’s very walled garden—a perfect place for young, susceptible, and impressionable minds to play online.
And view and click on AOL’s not-as-ubiquitous-as-expected ads floating within the sterilized content. How does AOL make any money with all that content and a nominal array of advertising?
I’m sure someone at AOL has a spreadsheet that foretells of great riches in the latest business plan; whatever it is. Perhaps there are enough parents and schools out there worried about what the real internet can do to their children’s minds to create the masses of eyeballs to make advertising revenue worthwhile.
What’ are the compelling reasons to use AOL Desktop for Mac? Simplicity. Security. Safety. Ease of use. Did I mention simple?