Photo: Asa Mathat | All Things Digital
Former AOL Chairman and CEO Steve Case made news before Christmas when he answered a question on Quora about how much it cost the company to send out all those floppy disks and CDs back in the 1990s.Yesterday he was at it again, posting six answers to various questions about AOL. Tidbits include:
- He admits that the company made it too difficult to cancel subscriptions, and said he was “mortified” by the runaround one customer got.
- He (unsurprisingly) blames Time-Warner’s management for botching the merger, and says that having a huge user base is still a good path to online success, even if it’s costly to build them. The trick is capitalising on the user base once you’ve built it.
- AOL’s biggest threat in the early days came from Prodigy, which received $1 billion (!) in funding from IBM and Sears. AOL launched with $2 million and raised less than $10 million in its first five years.
- The company moved to “all you can eat” or flat-rate pricing for Internet access after Microsoft announced plans to do the same with its MSN service.
- The original brand name, America Online, came as a result of an internal naming competition. It was later shortened to AOL when the company went international.
- He’s “cautiously optimistic” about the new direction of AOL after being spun out from Time-Warner.
Quora is rapidly developing a devoted following in Silicon Valley as a forum for unfettered conversation among actual tech industry employees–it hasn’t yet been corrupted by spammers and noise-makers like earlier question-and-answer services such as Yahoo Answers. But the conversation is mostly dominated by engineers and occasional startup CEOs, making Case’s high profile somewhat unusual.
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