Tuesday, December 18, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Dec. 18, 1998 -- Does "You've Got Mail" Deliver?

December 18, 1998: You've Got Mail finally opened, which means we could finally stop promoting it. The other text promos include another riff on the infamous spam headline, "Make Money Fast," and a rhyme for cards, flowers, and candy.

In the news headline, we see that the House of Representatives began the Clinton impeachment debate. Not captured in the headline: Speaker-Designate of the House Bob Livington also admitted to his own marital infidelity. (He would later step down.)
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[Series note: In the late 1990s, I programmed the content for the AOL.com home page, which relaunched with a new design on July 14, 1998. I printed screencaps and saved them. 20 years later, I'm scanning them in and posting them with a little commentary under the tag #20YearsAgoOnAOLcom.]

Monday, December 17, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Dec. 17, 1998 -- Desert Fox, Day 2

December 17, 1998: Continuing on with Day 2 of Operation Desert Fox, the US/UK airstrikes against Iraq.

As a preview, this doesn't show the My News dynamic headline. However, this does show a tweak in the Free Products column: The AOL mailbox icon and a little promo that said, "You've got mail with AOL NetMail!"

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[Series note: In the late 1990s, I programmed the content for the AOL.com home page, which relaunched with a new design on July 14, 1998. I printed screencaps and saved them. 20 years later, I'm scanning them in and posting them with a little commentary under the tag #20YearsAgoOnAOLcom.]

Sunday, December 16, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Dec. 16, 1998 -- When Suddenly, Desert Fox (the US Bombs Iraq)

December 16, 1998: The day started off with a boxy laptop promoting online stock portfolios, genealogy, and CDs (with headline snapshot of VP Gore's appeal for bipartisanship in the Clinton impeachment debate), when suddenly...


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The US and UK launched airstrikes and cruise missiles against Iraq in Operation Desert Fox, an escalation in the long-running weapons inspection drama featuring the UN and Saddam Hussein... and which just happened to bump the impeachment proceedings out of the headlines for a few days:
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[Series note: In the late 1990s, I programmed the content for the AOL.com home page, which relaunched with a new design on July 14, 1998. I printed screencaps and saved them. 20 years later, I'm scanning them in and posting them with a little commentary under the tag #20YearsAgoOnAOLcom.]

Saturday, December 15, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Dec. 15, 1998 -- 10 Days 'Til Christmas

December 15, 1998: More holiday shopping, with the Perfect Gift Catalog and a pragmatic exhortation to buy now to avoid rush shipping fees.

In the advertisement block, we have side-by-side "100 Hours Free/100 Free Hours" Try AOL ads; the My News headline says "Clinton Faces Pro-Impeachment Trend":

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[Series note: In the late 1990s, I programmed the content for the AOL.com home page, which relaunched with a new design on July 14, 1998. I printed screencaps and saved them. 20 years later, I'm scanning them in and posting them with a little commentary under the tag #20YearsAgoOnAOLcom.]

Friday, December 14, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Dec. 14, 1998 -- We've Got "You've Got Mail!"

December 14, 1998: I like the silly rhythm of the headline promoting synergy. The movie would open later in the week. The other text promos featured a "Get Rich Quick?" Personal Finance headline (riffing on fairly common spam subject lines), and a weight/wait pun.

The My News headline captured here refers to President Clinton's Middle East 3-day trip:


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[Series note: In the late 1990s, I programmed the content for the AOL.com home page, which relaunched with a new design on July 14, 1998. I printed screencaps and saved them. 20 years later, I'm scanning them in and posting them with a little commentary under the tag #20YearsAgoOnAOLcom.]

Thursday, December 13, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Dec. 13, 1998 -- More Holiday Shopping

December 13, 1998: 12 days to Christmas and my true love gave to me... a generic holiday shopping promo, holiday survival tips, and holiday vitamins:


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[Series note: In the late 1990s, I programmed the content for the AOL.com home page, which relaunched with a new design on July 14, 1998. I printed screencaps and saved them. 20 years later, I'm scanning them in and posting them with a little commentary under the tag #20YearsAgoOnAOLcom.]

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Dec. 12, 1998 -- More Furby, Heisman Award

December 12, 1998: Another Furby story; not sure if we were linking to a vendor who had Furbies available at insane markup or if we were just pointing to a news story.

The first text promo references the Heisman trophy award ceremony; Ricky Williams took it.


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[Series note: In the late 1990s, I programmed the content for the AOL.com home page, which relaunched with a new design on July 14, 1998. I printed screencaps and saved them. 20 years later, I'm scanning them in and posting them with a little commentary under the tag #20YearsAgoOnAOLcom.]

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Dec. 11, 1998 -- "Insurrection" and Impeachment Vote

December 11, 1998: The lead graphic promo features Star Trek: Insurrection and a headline that was full-on sensible chuckle, "Make It So-So?" (Having seen Insurrection in the theater, I stand by what I wrote.)

In the still-new dynamic My News section, we have a headline that says "Committee Nears Impeachment Vote" (see news from the day); I took another screenshot at the end of the day to capture "Panel Approves Impeachment Vote":

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[Series note: In the late 1990s, I programmed the content for the AOL.com home page, which relaunched with a new design on July 14, 1998. I printed screencaps and saved them. 20 years later, I'm scanning them in and posting them with a little commentary under the tag #20YearsAgoOnAOLcom.]

Monday, December 10, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Dec. 10, 1998 -- "You've Got Mail" Premiere and Dynamic New Headlines... Finally

December 10, 1998: We went with "You've Got Meg!" to promote the NYC premiere of You've Got Mail, the 2-hour product placement that I still haven't seen. The text promo also references Tomb Raider III downloads.

More importantly, we finally added a dynamic news headline onto the page! As I recall, the mechanism was a simple include file that pulled in the top headline from My News, automatically truncating it. I don't remember at this point if we sent people directly to the article or just to the My News main page.

Note that from here on out, you'll only see the news headline block on screenshots pofthe live page; the headline block didn't show up on the preview server.

Note that the page was still static; you wouldn't see a new headline unless you refreshed the page. (I don't remember if we had a meta-refresh on the page.) At the time I took this screenshot (10:05am ET), the top headline was "House Likely to Get Articles," referring to articles of impeachment for the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal:

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[Series note: In the late 1990s, I programmed the content for the AOL.com home page, which relaunched with a new design on July 14, 1998. I printed screencaps and saved them. 20 years later, I'm scanning them in and posting them with a little commentary under the tag #20YearsAgoOnAOLcom.]

Sunday, December 09, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Dec. 9, 1998 -- Last-Minute Travel Bargains and the International Space Station

December 9, 1998: Last-minute airfare deals were typically our most clicked-on Travel promos, so we went to that well a lot. The top text promo references the building of the International Space Station, the first component of which went up in a mission on November 20 (we made no mention of it on AOL.com when it happened, probably because it was a Russian Proton launch, not the space shuttle):

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[Series note: In the late 1990s, I programmed the content for the AOL.com home page, which relaunched with a new design on July 14, 1998. I printed screencaps and saved them. 20 years later, I'm scanning them in and posting them with a little commentary under the tag #20YearsAgoOnAOLcom.]

Saturday, December 08, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Dec. 8, 1998 -- Fight the Flu, and a Clinton Defense

December 8, 1998: The graphic promo features winter health tips, while the top text promo is a My News promo that reads "White House to Present Defense," calling witnesses in front of the House Judiciary Committee to argue that the Lewinsky scandal didn't feature any impeachable offenses. (Past = prologue?)  You can read the comtemporaneous Washington Post article. 

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[Series note: In the late 1990s, I programmed the content for the AOL.com home page, which relaunched with a new design on July 14, 1998. I printed screencaps and saved them. 20 years later, I'm scanning them in and posting them with a little commentary under the tag #20YearsAgoOnAOLcom.]

Friday, December 07, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Dec. 7, 1998 -- Sneaking in Employee Babies, and Garth Brooks

December 7, 1998: We didn't do anything to remember Pearl Harbor, but we did start the day with a graphic promo that read, "How Much Will This Baby Cost? Lowering the price of raising a child." I don't think it was a veiled shopping promo, but I have no idea what else it would have been.

The important thing is that the kid in the photo belongs to an AOL.com employee (Will Schermerhorn on the My News team):

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We didn't use employee photos very often, but we didn't actually sneak it in; I'm sure we got a release and everything; we even gave a proper photo credit below the fold: "Photo Credit: Erica courtesy of Robin and Will Schermerhorn."
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That lasted until we started into primetime, where we switched over to Garth Brooks. I guess his live album, Double Live, which had been released in November, hit the top of the Billboard charts:
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[Series note: In the late 1990s, I programmed the content for the AOL.com home page, which relaunched with a new design on July 14, 1998. I printed screencaps and saved them. 20 years later, I'm scanning them in and posting them with a little commentary under the tag #20YearsAgoOnAOLcom.]

Thursday, December 06, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Dec. 6, 1998 -- Shop Smart (Shop S-Mart?)

December 6, 1998: Another generic holiday shopping promo, this one with a mild Army of Darkness reference. Plus, more shopping, and shareware. Remember shareware?
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[Series note: In the late 1990s, I programmed the content for the AOL.com home page, which relaunched with a new design on July 14, 1998. I printed screencaps and saved them. 20 years later, I'm scanning them in and posting them with a little commentary under the tag #20YearsAgoOnAOLcom.]

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Dec. 5, 1998 -- Furby Alternatives

December 5, 1998: 1998 was the year of the Furby, so we named-checked it for what I'm sure was probably just a generic holiday gift guide. The first text promo references college football and the runup to the Fiesta Bowl, while the second text promo is holiday shopping.

I also forgot to notice that back in November, we swapped out "Scores" for Holiday Shopping in the Daily Essentials Section:
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[Series note: In the late 1990s, I programmed the content for the AOL.com home page, which relaunched with a new design on July 14, 1998. I printed screencaps and saved them. 20 years later, I'm scanning them in and posting them with a little commentary under the tag #20YearsAgoOnAOLcom.]

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Dec. 4, 1998 -- Go 'Psycho'?

December 4, 1998: The 1998 remake of Psycho opened, so we featured it in the top spot. Although the image is in color, the rest of the top block is black-and-white in honor of the original.

The top text promo headline is "A Good Time, All the Time," which is of course a Spinal Tap reference.

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[Series note: In the late 1990s, I programmed the content for the AOL.com home page, which relaunched with a new design on July 14, 1998. I printed screencaps and saved them. 20 years later, I'm scanning them in and posting them with a little commentary under the tag #20YearsAgoOnAOLcom.]