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The New Free AOL

A very pleasant surprise

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Finally AOL is doing something to get the attention of those of us who love free services. They are in the process of transforming themselves from an expensive dial up Internet service provider to an advertising supported free service for those with other Internet connections. They still offer dial-up, and you still have to pay for that if you need to use it to get your Internet access, but they are making most of their "value added" services free to everyone.

The only catch for us non-members is that we need to register for a free AOL screen name and email address. Registering is easy, but I feel that they ask for more information than they really need. I don't have a problem giving them my mailing address, but I refuse to give them my telephone number. They have the form programmed to reject the number of directory assistance, which is what I usually give as my phone number. However, you can still avoid giving them your regular number if you register for a free voice over IP phone number that you use only for voice mail. That is what I used.

You can use all the free features directly from your browser, so there is no need to download and install the AOL software if you are not an AOL dial up user.

Here are some of the reasons I feel it is worth registering for the AOL free services:

  • Free Custom Email Address: You get a free email address and, at this writing, they are planning to soon allow you to select your own domain for the address. This service will be free but the catch is that AOL will own the domain, so you don't want to pick a domain to which you want to have control for other purposes.

  • Free Security Products You get free security features which include anti-virus with daily updates, anti-spyware, firewall, and more.

  • Free AOL Radio with XM: I am very impressed with AOL Radio. They have some great stations including a very nice selection of XM satellite radio music station. It's almost like getting a free XM subscription. I have even heard some XM subscribers say that the sound quality of the XM stations through AOL Radio is actually better than what they get through their satellite receivers.

It looks like AOL will be adding more free features in the near future. I really never thought I would be praising AOL, but I guess an old dog can learn a few new tricks.

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