I was surprised to discover that you can still download the classic AOL desktop software. It's fundamentally the same software that drove dialup modem connections in the 90s (and the "bring your own" TCP/IP connection later) except that now, as you might imagine, just about any "service" you click on simply opens an internal web browser and lands you at some HTML iteration of it. It's basically an elaborate client-heavy web browser now.
Still it's a nostalgic look back at how the web was introduced to millions of people, and of course, before they forgot about the web. If you're a hard core AOL e-mail user it's probably even an attractive de facto native e-mail client to manipulate your messages through.
The classic AOL e-mail composition window still works.
AOL Chat';s 'Town Square' still has chatters, albeit just 3 of them. And one is named Gooey Pimple Pus. That';s about right for most abandoned Town Squares that I know of.
My little tour through the AOL software got me thinking that, in light of the fact that the WWW is quickly vanishing as everyone pools up inside Facebook, why doesn't Facebook push out a client-like software package of its own now? Just like AOL of the 90s before it ceded to the web it could be one that completely leaves behind web browsers altogether and which contains users inside a Facebook walled-gardened experience.
Unlike the trend of AOL's day, to its misfortune, where people were clammoring to venture out into the independently-produced web, resenting AOL for pricing what appeared so "free and vast" on the "real" Interwebs, people today are really doing the exact opposite. They're shutting down trust in hyperlinks and web pages and clutching to their Zucker-buttered newsfeeds with little interest in stumbling over www dot whatevers.
I'm being a little sardonic of course, Facebook has rolled out a walled garden experience which is broadly defined as its Facebook mobile app. The mobile app forgets the web and only begrudgingly links users to external destinations after first attempting to render them inside its own engine. Pretty much like all apps in fact.
What I'm really feeling is a little ironic pity for 90s AOL since it turns out that at the end of the day their model of the online universe is what people wound up taking to after all, more or less. If they had just gotten to the concept of a social media newsfeed first it might have anchored their relevance long enough for people to wind through the WWW fad and come back to them.