AOL acts all foolish and juvenile

In Monday's IT Blogwatch, Richi Jennings watches AOL's Webmail team turn itself into a laughing-stock. Not to mention a tribute to Ronald Reagan (1911-2004)...

AOL's Webmail team hides behind their invisible cloak:

AOL mail logo
Happy Halloween Gmail! We knew you would have the best costume at the party, and who can blame you? We think it's great that you're using this holiday to pay homage to the one who started it all, who got 35 million people online at once, gave them all email, great content and messaging capabilities, and even created a forum that encouraged them to speak in emoticons.

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They say imitation is the best form of flattery, so Gmail, we thank you and we are indeed very flattered. Putting together a costume that is so dead-on could not have been easy, and you've got it down pat. Trying to convince all the other kids at the party that the only thing to use is Gmail and putting out a press release every time you add a new button to the service is just so 1998. We're telling you – this outfit brings back memories!
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Joseph Manna has some advice for AOL:

In a post on the AOL’s official Mail product blog, AOL insults Google’s GMail product in typical insincere tirade regarding product parity. If there was anything friendly about the entry, it wasn’t made clear to readers. Either this is a PR stunt, or the author had one too many spiked drinks at the office on Halloween ... It’s worth one read for a good chuckle at how low the morale is in Dulles.

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AOL criticizes Google for allegedly copying AOL’s proprietary features into their product ... Really, who in their right mind chooses to use AOL Mail after they’ve used GMail? An entry like this gives off the sense that you’re ignorant, arrogant and blind ... If you spent more time focusing on what your product does well, I may possibly be mildly interested at seeing why your product is not inferior.

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Acknowledging your competitors doesn’t happen from a drunken diatribe on someone’s lonely Halloween. Srsly. Why not ask users what features they love, and ask them to try a competitor and share feedback with you?
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Sam Harrelson thinks it's time for a colorful metaphor:

AOL is, on the whole, doing things right by its users and the web in general these days.

However, the mail team blew it with this bone-headed post complaining about GMail and written on the level of a jealous 14 year old girl that didn’t make the cheerleading squad but wore the same outfit as the prom queen last Tuesday at the basketball game.

Come on, AOL. You’re better than this. Don’t you have a pretty strict PR dept?
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Nick Tabick, too:

Excuse me a second while I point out that this makes everyone at AOL look like a pack of three-year-olds without a babysitter and add myself to the numerous people who agree.

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I find it interesting that AOL would attempt to play a humor card while they tout their own rusty horn, especially when you consider this is the same AOL that uses Google to power their search engine.

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If Halloween is a grand occasion to make fun of one of your partner/competitors, I wonder what Christmas is going to be like at the AOL offices this year ... It might be better to ensure that the liquor, sugar, caffeine, and everything else that might get one of the press writers giddy is safely locked up lest someone posts a follow-up entry making fun of Time Warner.
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But in the AOL post's comments, ernani415 steps up to support the motion:

I'm not a huge fan of AOL from times past but you have to admit that the company seems to be doing a lot of things right. Pity that it was 8 years too late...

But I applaud AOL for calling out Google. The company is putting out tons of derivative products and calling them out as innovative: the functionality referred to has been on AOL and Yahoo for years. iGoogle is a ripoff of Netvibes and My Yahoo, not to mention all the other so called personalized pages there.
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However, most are like deluge:

I have a long memory about how AOL was evil to so many people with its billing practices. And how evil some of the customer service managers at AOL have been as I've attempted to resolve billing problems. One AOL customer service supervisor actually laughed at me and told me with great glee that he'd refer my account to a collection agency and try to trash my credit, rather than try to understand and resolve an error on AOL's side.
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And like Jim:

And history is bound to repeat itself yet again. Look at what's happening with OpenID. A handful of brilliant engineers from AOL got involved early. AOL was the first "major" web company to launch support for OpenID. But the idiots who run the company didn't quite "get it" and didn't support the effort. Now all the other major web companies have launched support. And there is the also ran AOL, standing on the street corner, trying to say, "I was here first." Too bad no one is listening.

Maybe some day AOL will go back to leading with engineering. Until then, the morons running the company will continue to milk it till it's dry.
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And finally...

Buffer overflow:

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Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/adviser/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and spam. A 23 year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. You can follow him on Twitter, pretend to be Richi's friend on Facebook, or just use boring old email: blogwatch@richi.co.uk.

Previously in IT Blogwatch:

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

 
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