Manassas Journal Messenger | Erasing AOL

It appears one of the faded symbols of the high tech boom (and collapse) of the late 1990s is being brushed aside as a weakened American economy prepares for better days ahead.

It was announced this week that AOL Time Warner is dropping “AOL” from its name and retaining its former “TWX” symbol on the New York Stock Exchange. In a decree, not too different from Pharaoh ordering the name “Moses” stricken from all Egyptian records and histories in “The Ten Commandments,” Time Warner is disassociating itself from the struggling Internet service provider.

Dulles-based AOL is now only a small subsidiary of the communications giant. This marks a dramatic fall from the glory days when it was America Online Inc. which bought out Time Warner in early 2001. Some wondered back then if AOL would drop the Time Warner name.

It’s odd what the crash of the dot-com economy has done. “… Brother can you spare a dime.”

While AOL is still a useful Internet service, it’s the connection itself that did in the company. Customers are jumping off the AOL bandwagon in favor of high speed Internet access now provided by the major cable and phone companies.

Even though AOL is available via broadband, it’s probably too late. Most Web surfers still associate the company with the slower dial up service and all its associated drawbacks.

Based in Loudoun County with facilities here in Prince William County, AOLs has been on shaky ground with its Time Warner partnership since its $112 billion merger nearly three years ago. Time Warner suits resented the name change and falling revenue at AOL resulted in many of its executives being whittled away from corporate leadership positions, including last year’s ouster of AOL founder Steve Case.

With the Securities and Exchange Commission still investigating accusations of inflated AOL stock prices during the giant merger, the corporate leadership felt a name change was due.

The name change is a sign of the times. When merger talks were buzzing in 2000, AOL stood for the future of new media with limitless possibilities. The names Time and Warner (a remnant of the old Warner Brothers Entertainment) represented the old media with a rich tradition.

Now Time Warner is taking back its old media persona and the future of AOL is less than certain. While the Internet giant may continue to thrive in the world of broadband, it’s uncertain whether it will do so under the Time Warner banner.

Unfortunately AOL Time Warner learned in this marriage what many corporations learned as America entered a new century – visions of Internet profits were only a mirage.

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