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AOL UK

Last Edit: 28/10/19

AOL UK is an Internet Service Provider that is credited as being launched in the UK in 1996. AOL is sometimes wrote as Aol, AoL, Aol., and the company is still sometimes referred to as 'America Online'. AOL Broadband (UK) is no longer available to customers as an Internet service, with prospective new customers being redirected to its owner TalkTalk, who provide their own broadband service. The website aol.co.uk was launched in 1996 and is still operational, offering news and access to email (for old AOL UK customers). The aol.co.uk website appears to receive news feeds from Yahoo! and its nameservers are ns1.yahoo.com, ns2.yahoo.com, ns3.yahoo.com, ns4.yahoo.com and ns5.yahoo.com. In 2015 Verizon acquired AOL (US not UK), and in 2017 Verizon acquired Yahoo!, which explains why aol.co.uk and aol.com are now located onYahoo! nameservers; thus it currently appears that TalkTalk do not own or operate the aol.co.uk website?

Old era AOL logo Old era AOL logo, in the 2000's Modern era AOL logo, used in 2018
(Pictured: How the AOL logo has evolved over the decades, from its beginnings in the UK in 1996)

AOL UK is named after its America 'cousin' AOL, which was one of the first and largest commercial Internet Service Providers in the United States of America. In 1985, AOL began life as Quantum Computer Services, which used the famous phrase "You've got mail!" in the late 1980s. In 1991, Quantum Computer Services changed its name to America Online Inc, and alongside CompuServe and Prodigy, was a part of the 'big three' commercial Internet Service Providers in the US. Therefore, it made sense to create a UK version of AOL in 1996, as the popularity of dialup Internet access was increasing, and AOL were known as a global Internet brand.

In 2005, the telegraph.co.uk published an article about AOL UK and its history, having conducted an interview with Karen Thomson, the chief executive of AOL UK in 2005. Karen Thomson stated, in the article, that she was one of first employees of AOL UK in 1996, and amongst the team that launched the business. She noted how AOL UK had grown over a decade, from a small team comprising herself in 1996, to over 500 employees in its London headquarters. In 1996, at its launch, AOL UK had to play catch up to some of the UK's original independent Internet Service Providers, such as Demon Internet (1992) and Easynet (1994), who had pioneered dialup access and local loop unbundling. However, by 2005, AOL UK had overtaken the majority of these independent ISPs in terms of subscriber numbers and LLU exchanges. AOL UK were one of the few UK ISPs who conducted largescale television/media advertising campaigns and became the exclusive ISP promoted in the Dixons' chain of electrical stores in 2003, replacing Freeserve (the software to access ISPs in the 1990s often required a disc/cd, that was provided/sold in high street stores).

In a new article published on the BBC website in 2006, it was stated that AOL UK were the third largest Internet Service Provider in the United Kingdom, with BBC business editor Robert Peston going on to report that Carphone Warehouse was acquiring the business for £370m. Carphone Warehouse boss Charles Dunstone was quoted as exclaiming that "The acquisition is transformational for our broadband business". Due to its acquisition of AOL, estimates suggested that Carphone Warehouse would have over two million subscribers in 2006, with a rough estimate of 10% of these customers being local loop unbundling (LLU) customers. AOL UK has remained in the Carphone Warehouse 'family' of companies from its acquisition to the present day; its now part of previous Carphone Warehouse subsidiary TalkTalk. Carphone Warehouse renamed the business AOL Broadband in 2007, but it still heavily marketed the AOL brand. However, as the years passed the AOL brand was pushed into the background and TalkTalk broadband became the service that was primarily promoted. This would lead to the eventual demise of AOL Broadband in April 2014, with all new (prospective) customers being directed to TalkTalk broadband; currently one of the biggest broadband providers in the UK.