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Thirty years: the first birthday where you stop keeping track.
This month*, AOL turns 30. The one-time crown prince of media is looking a bit tired these days, probably yawning while being acquired this week by Verizon for $4.4 billion in cash. The sale comes after about a decade of trying to build a business around online advertising.
At its peak AOL boasted some 21 million subscribers, but did you know that 2.3 million people still pay for their dialup service? According to Quartz, the dialup access business generated about a third of the company’s $607 million in sales for Q2 2014.
Below we’ve collected a few major milestones from the past three decades or so:
1985: AOL is born, then known Quantum Computer Services. Weirdly, it’s not possible to link to a blog post from that day. Apparently there were way fewer blogs in 1985.
1989: The iconic “You’ve got mail!” is heard for the first time.
1993: CD-ROM mailings help make AOL a household name. At one point, AOL used 100 percent of the entire world’s CD manufacturing capacity. Imagine the vast expanse of all those CDs, shrink-wrapped in even more plastic, that you threw away without opening.
1998: The movie You’ve Got Mail with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan is released. Nobody seems to notice it’s exactly the same story, cast, and writer/director as Sleepless in Seattle. The only thing different is AOL instead of the radio.
1998: The technology behind AOL’s Buddy List Network enters the Smithsonian’s permanent collection. (Yes, you’re old.)
2001: AOL and Time Warner announce a doomed $160 billion merger. It typified the dot-com bubble and is often hailed as one of the worst Internet mergers of all time.
2002: A record-setting five million members download AOL 8.0 software in two weeks.
2005: AOL hosted coverage of the global Live8 concerts and become the first Internet company to win an Emmy.
2009: Tim Armstrong, AOL’s CEO, spends an initial $7 million to acquire hyper-local news operation Patch.com. This ended up costing AOL up to $300 million before it was finally abandoned.
September 2010: Something called “TechCrunch” (a website?) gets acquired by AOL for $30 million.
February 2011: The Huffington Post sells to AOL for $315 million.
April 2012: AOL sells some 800 patents to Microsoft for $1 billion cash, stock soars 48 percent.
May 2014: Verizon, hoping to make new strides in content-focused media, acquires AOL for $4.4 billion in cash.
Happy birthday, AOL! Don’t stay out too late — you’ll be groggy before yoga tomorrow.
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