aol.com: How Steve Case Beat Bill Gates, Nailed the Netheads, and Made Millions in the War for the Web

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9780812928969: aol.com: How Steve Case Beat Bill Gates, Nailed the Netheads, and Made Millions in the War for the Web
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In 1996, Kara Swisher, then a reporter at The Washington Post, was granted unprecedented access to one of the hottest and most closely watched companies in the world, America Online, Inc.  In aol.com, Swisher has written a book that captures the secrets of how AOL beat the competition and became the world's biggest online company.  Swisher also reveals the company's behind-the-scenes dealings with Microsoft cofounders Bill Gates and Paul Allen, CompuServe, Prodigy, Netscape, and the Christian Right.

Throughout its existence, AOL has repeatedly been written off by the media and the high-tech world.  Bill Gates threatened to buy it or bury it.  Deep-pocketed competitors such as CompuServe and Prodigy thought little of their smaller rival.  And AOL made matters worse by committing a series of public-relations and technical blunders that became front page news and enraged its subscribers.

But the company--a "cyber-cockroach"--refused to die.  Now, with over eleven million subscribers, AOL is the undisputed leader in the online world, vitally positioned at the nexus of big business, high tech, advertising, and new media.  In telling  the story of AOL, Swisher also conveys the fascinating history of the online business, which has its origins in the dreams of an eccentric and little-known entrepreneur named Bill Von Meister, whose grand ideas and big spending spawned the fledgling company that would become AOL.  But it fell to a young marketing executive named Steve Case to build AOL while fending off an onslaught of wealthier competitors and suitors.  Ultimately, as Swisher vividly illustrates, AOL gained supremacy because Case possessed the best vision for his company, establishing AOL as a vibrant virtual community rather than an online shopping center or business tool.  Included in that community is an array of enthusiasts, activists, and deviants who at times clash in battles over freedom of expression and family values, a flash point best illustrated here by AOL's fight against the Communications Decency Act.

Re-creating all of the major moments in AOL's frenzied history, aol.com is a fascinating and important inside story about the birth of a new medium, the enterprising  innovators who are leading it, and the way it is changing our culture.

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Review:

AOL's story--from its origins in a doomed gaming service through its early appearance as a much-dismissed startup to its current status as an often-maligned giant--is as irresistible as a heroic comedy. Kara Swisher chronicles the surprising growth of the world's largest online service, an organization for which everything apparently went wrong.

The company has run into obstacles at every step of the way--partners who failed to give necessary support or who even turned hostile, and competition from a multitude of corporate Goliaths (including Bill Gates, who declared that he could either buy AOL or bury it). Worst of all, AOL has created a cascading sequence of operational and technical blunders, often offending or infuriating the people they most need to survive; yet the company still manages to dominate the online service industry.

Swisher speculates that one main factor enabled AOL to succeed against overwhelming odds: the superior vision of marketing executive Steve Case. While other online services focused on games, shopping, and business, AOL worked on building community and interpersonal contacts. This service proved valuable enough to outweigh the company's mistakes and misfortunes.

However, it is this same focus that has also brought on many of AOL's problems. Swisher describes AOL's struggles with the seamier side of online life--people who use the service for criminal activities and for discussing raunchy sexual issues. Swisher also discusses the problems that come with too much success, such as the overload of users that routinely slows down or completely crashes the system, the backlash on the Internet when masses of netiquette-challenged AOLers appeared in cliquish newsgroups, and the national outrage when a technical problem brought down the entire service for many hours.

With its cast of fascinating and quirky characters, including Steve Case, Bill Gates, Paul Allen, and Alexander Haig, aol.com is a captivating look at all the human, cultural, and sometimes just plain quixotic factors that created this unlikely giant. --Elizabeth Lewis

From the Back Cover:

Advance Praise for aol.com

"Kara Swisher's book could not be more timely. The history of AOL is a tale of death barely averted on numerous occasions. The company's recent market ascendancy is nothing less than a miraculous, and a testament to the rewards of 'carpet bomb' marketing."
--Randall Stross, author of The Microsoft Way

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9780812931914: AOL.com

Featured Edition

ISBN 10:  0812931912 ISBN 13:  9780812931914
Publisher: Three Rivers Press, 1999
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9784152082695: AOL.Com

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