Friday, September 21, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Sept. 21, 1998 -- Clinton Deposition Video Released

September 21, 1998: President Bill Clinton's deposition video was released. From the timestamp, looks like we started the morning with a placeholder (I wasn't usually at the office at 6:44am back then... or now), then updated the promo after it was published:


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After the video and materials were released, we updated the promo to make it an all-Clinton deposition package. Remember, this was in the days before YouTube (which wouldn't be around for about 7 more years), so people were dependent on online media outlets for event video like this.

I don't recall if we provided the entire video or just excerpts, though we probably had the full deposition.

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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, September 20, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Sept. 20, 1998 -- "The Simpsons" Kicks off 10th Season

September 20, 1998: Led with The Simpsons' 10th season premiere, including a not very subtle dig at the Clinton scandal by calling them the "Real First Family."

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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, September 19, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Sept. 19, 1998 -- More College Football

September 19, 1998: Another Saturday college football promo (featuring a photo of, I believe, Florida State wide receiver Peter Warrick) that probably no one clicked on.

The second text promo for My News references the Bill Clinton deposition tape which was expected to be released the following Monday.

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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, September 18, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Sept. 18, 1998 -- 'Rush Hour' Leads Fall Movie Preview

September 18, 1998: We led with an Entertainment Web Center fall movie preview featuring Rush Hour, which starred Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker, and was directed by accused sex offender Brett Ratner.

Other than that, second text promo ponders, "Will they release the Clinton videotape?" [Spoiler: Yes.]

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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, September 17, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Sept. 17, 1998 -- Airline Strike Over

September 17, 1998: The graphic promo headline references the 1998 Northwest Airlines pilots' strike, which grounded the airline for two weeks. Despite appearances, it's not a news story, but rather a promotion for some sort of Travel Web Center feature.

The Starr Report remains in the third spot.

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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, September 16, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Sept. 16, 1998 -- Party of Five Returns

September 16, 1998: Back to fall TV premieres, highlighting Party of Five and Beverly Hills, 90210. The Starr Report remains as the third text promo and part of the house ad rotation:
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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, September 15, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Sept. 15, 1998 -- Save for a Rainy Day (and a New Safe Surfin' link)

September 15, 1998: A pretty generic Personal Finance promo, with a piece of stock art that's probably still in use now. The Starr Report is still in the third spot of the promo block:
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Way below the fold, in the America Online corporate links section, we added a new item for Online Safety, touting some Safe Surfin' program that I don't recall. It would have been a website, not an AOL-only service link. It may be related to this video. The timing around all the Starr report publishing is probably just a coincidence.

[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, September 14, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Sept. 14, 1998 -- Back to Sports and Sosa's 62nd

September 14, 1998: We cut back to the Home Run Derby, moving the Starr Report in the third spot and leading off with Slammin' Sammy Sosa hitting his 62nd homer.

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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, September 13, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Sept. 13, 1998 -- All-Starr Weekend (and an updated disclaimer)

September 13, 1998: We went all Starr Report for the weekend, with an otherwise standard text promo lineup.

However, below the fold, there's a change: the "100 HOURS Free*" asterisk, which previously pointed to a fine-print disclaimer in the footer, now points to a more visible disclaimer near the bottom of the column reading, "*For conditions and membership details, sign up now." Again, the change was probably given to us by Legal; and again, the only way to view the details was to actually go through the signup process.
  
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(There's also a new "Online Safety" item in the corporate links area, but that's just an artifact of the preview, which I did the following week when I took the screenshot, so I'll talk about it after it "goes live.")

[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, September 12, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Sept. 12, 1998 -- Starr Report Saturday

September 12, 1998: Naturally, we continued with the Starr Report in the top spot, though we resumed the regular text promo lineup in the other spots. Also note that we put a Starr Report house ad in the rotation. It probably wasn't a good idea to use the exact same graphic for the house ad in the ad bloc as the editorial promotion, but then again, I think by this point, everyone assumed everything was an advertisement anyway:

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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, September 11, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Sept. 11, 1998 -- We Publish Full Text of the Starr Report

September 11, 1998: This anniversary tends to be forgotten due to, you know, September 11, but the Starr Report was publicly released. It was in no way your typical Friday news dump. The Post article about preparing for the online release of the report includes this bit:
Several commercial Web sites, including America Online, Compuserve and Washingtonpost.com, are planning to post the summary as soon as they receive it. Tricia Primrose of America Online said that members can use AOL's parental-control technology to keep youngsters from accessing the document.
We dedicated the entire lead promo spot (including a nifty, AOL.com-branded graphic) to the report, which we published in its entirety on My News, thanks to the swift efforts of the My News team. I remember Bill Frischling, fingers flying as he used MS Word to strip formatting from the provided file (which was originally Wordperfect) to get it ready for posting.

I forget the precise chronology, but the time stamp on the live page screenshot is 3:17pm. AOL.com was one of the first (if not the first) to get the full text online.
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I used to have a printout of one of the wire service stories about the online release of the Starr report; it included a photo of a computer screen (possibly at a cybercafe) displaying the report -- it was, of course, the My News version.

The Starr Report package, and everything else that was My News, is long gone, though you can still find the full text of the Starr Report elsewhere.

[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, September 10, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Sept. 10, 1998 -- Starr Report Coverage

September 10, 1998: Obviously, the story of the day was the release of the Starr Report. Looks like we stuck with the same photo of the Capitol Police hauling in the report that every other news outlet used.

In all the excitement, I guess I forgot to take a live screenshot, so here's another look at my copyfit mockup; the lead item says, "Starr Report Alleges Perjury: Text of report to be available on AOL.COM Friday."
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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, September 09, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Sept. 9, 1998 -- Mark McGwire Hits 62; Followed by the Starr Report Preview

September 9, 1998: Mark McGwire hit his 62nd home run the night before (we didn't publish a real-time update); so we led with the story in the top spot the next day:

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However, Mac was bumped from the top spot by Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr, who sent his report to Congress. I only have a screenshot of my offline copyfit mockup; you can see how the first promo runs to three lines, throwing off the alignment of the block and adding some space to the bottom of the right column; I'm not sure if that's the version we ultimately published.

Anyway, you'll see a lot more of this during the coming 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, September 08, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Sept. 8, 1998 -- Personal Finance, and Read Your AOL Mail at Work with NetMail

September 8, 1998: Just another generic Personal Finance graphic in the top spot. We moved the home run record watch down to the second text promo spot.

What's marginally more interesting: In the Free Products column, we have a text promo that reads "Can't use AOL at work? Read your AOL e-mail with AOL NetMail.":


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Yeah, we're basically saying, "Bypass your boss and your corporate IT department so you can check your personal email at work"... just not as explicitly as this short-lived AOL TV commercial from around 1996 or so (I believe it was from the same batch as AOL commercials as the David Cross "monkey glove" ad).

The first version of AOL NetMail used an ActiveX plug-in, so if you couldn't install the AOL client software on your work machine, it's quite possible that you wouldn't have been allowed to run ActiveX plug-ins, and we quickly moved beyond it.

[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, September 07, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Sept. 7, 1998 -- Mark McGwire Ties Home Run Record

September 7, 1998: Mark McGwire hit his 61st home run, tying Roger Maris' single-season record. It's hard to overstate what a huge deal the 1998 home run derby was, since the horse race aspect was something easy for non-baseball fans to get caught up in.

In retrospect, we all probably knew there was something mighty suspicious about all these dingers hit by men with basketball-sized heads and canned hams for forearms. But that would come much later.

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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, September 06, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Sept. 6, 1998 -- NFL Regular Season Kickoff

September 6, 1998: A Sunday promo for Monday Night Football, featuring Patriot linebacker Tedy Bruschi.

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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, September 05, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Sept. 5, 1998 -- Emmy Contenders and 100 Free Hours*

September 5, 1998: A generic Entertainment promo about that year's Emmy contenders, but at least I got to call our members couch potatoes.

One thing I overlooked from the Sept. 2 design tweaks: In the "Try AOL Now" promo in the right-side Free Products column, we added an asterisk after "get 100 FREE HOURS!*" This referenced a disclaimer at the bottom of the page, presumably added at the behest of Legal, that read, "*For conditions and membership details, see registration process."

So even the disclaimer itself was a promo to sign up for AOL.

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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, September 04, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Sept. 4, 1998 -- Labor Day Weather Forecast

September 4, 1998: For the Friday before Labor Day, the lead promo spot was for the weekend weather forecasts from My News, while the second promo was about Mark McGwire nearing the single-season MLB home run record (the 1998 "Home Run Derby"). We'll see a lot more about this in the coming days; but next week is going to be even more notable for a report from a certain independent counsel...

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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, September 03, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Sept. 3, 1998 -- Swissair Flight 111 Crashes

September 3, 1998: Swissair Flight 111 crashed in the Atlantic Ocean off Halifax late September 2. I seem to remember making updates to the scheduled page from home, either late on Sept. 2 or early on Sept. 3, using dialup and my Defender key authenticator (which looked like an old LCD calculator) to access the publishing systems.

The first image was a breaking news graphic probably repurposed from one created for the AOL News Channel coverage (the website was second-tier to the core service offerings):
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This was followed by two photos from the crash recovery:
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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, September 02, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Sept. 2, 1998 -- Another Design Tweak and a Victory for Text

September 2, 1998: We debuted an updated promo block with two major (well, major to me) changes:

* First, we broke out the Daily Essentials to their own column (which almost, but not quite aligned to the five-column layout below... man, what were we thinking?).

* More importantly to me, if you look at the baby promo, this is when we switched to a text headline for the graphic promo, instead of embedding text into the graphic. At the time, it wasn't for SEO: It was for production flexibility and decreasing turnaround time. This had been a battle I'd been fighting for some time (after all, I was the person programming the spot), and I remember our West Coast design lead, Phil Waters, who had been an advocate for the designed graphics, finally sending in an email something like "I have seen the light!" (it might have even been in all caps).

This gave us a lead promo with a graphic and two lines of text, and three all-text promos (that added bullets, but removed bolded headlines). The narrower columns really cut into my available character count.

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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, September 01, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Sept. 1, 1998 -- 'Titanic' Released on Home Video

September 1, 1998: September kicked off with the release of Titanic on home video (which would have included VHS).


[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, August 31, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: August 31, 1998 -- Remembering Princess Diana, One Year After Her Death

August 31, 1998: Princess Di had died just the year before, so naturally we were all over that anniversary:

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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, August 30, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: August 30, 1998 -- Time Savers

August 30, 1998: For a generic Sunday graphic promo (weekends were low traffic compared to weekdays), we had the Find a Job Time Saver; I'd forgotten about Time Savers, which were behavior-based feature packages of content and functionality (maybe canned searches?). Some of the other ones we'd seen referenced include Plan a Night Out/In. Like I said, I'd forgotten about them:

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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, August 29, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: August 29, 1998 -- Pigskin Classic Preview

August 29, 1998: A preview for the 1998 Pigskin Classic; USC would face (and beat) Purdue on Sunday. College football wasn't a big clickthrough winner for us, but apparently I was hard up for content and we had to maintain the facade of timeliness.

One thing I forgot to notice: The column footers (which linked to the same section main pages as the column header images) are aligned to the bottom, instead of the previous sawtooth configuration. We were concerned that people be able to navigate to the section main pages if they scrolled below the fold (ha):

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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, August 28, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: August 28, 1998 -- Neve Campbell Dazzles [sic] in '54'

August 28, 1998: The lead graphic promo features Neve Campbell in the forgettable and forgotten Studio 54 movie 54. I don't recall if the movie content we linked to actually used the term, or if that was just a bit of puffery to help promote the film: 
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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, August 27, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: August 27, 1998 -- Bonnie Downgraded, Dow Dips

August 27, 1998: The day started with a continuation of the Hurricane Bonnie story, using the same satellite image, while the second text promo was for the new AOL Instant Messenger v2.0 Beta. (I guess the color printer wasn't available that day):
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We did a midday update on the Bonnie story, using a photo showing the impact of the hurricane. The first text promo references another stock market dip:
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Apparently, it was significant enough that we moved the Dow dip into the graphic spot, recycling the Personal Finance graphic we used for the downturn on August 21:
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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, August 26, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: August 26, 1998 -- Hurricane Bonnie Arrives

August 26, 1998: Hurricane Bonnie arrived off the coast of North Carolina. The lead graphic promo, which says, "Travel: Take a Labor Day Getaway," was not a hurricane tie-in.

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We followed it up with a mid-day update, moving the Bonnie news into the graphic spot with a satellite photo:
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Also, the second text promo for AOL White Pages reads "This 411 Doesn't Go on Strike." I can't find the specific event this references, but apparently there had been a recent telephone worker strike that affected 411 service.

There are also some handwritten notes; I'm not sure what the "Non-Netfind" note means, but in the Free Products column, you can see the arrow which adjusts the order of the AOL Instant Messenger v1.0 and v2.0 Beta promos—a change you'll see tomorrow.

[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, August 25, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: August 25, 1998 -- Hacky Hurricane Headline

August 25, 1998: The top promo block is a mini-package around Hurricane Bonnie, which formed the week before, featuring Research & Learn, My News, and a shameless, fruitless shopping promo (online grocery buying wasn't really a thing back in '98).

I also wrote a really lame text promo using an obvious, hacky reference to My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean.

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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, August 24, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: August 24, 1998 -- 'Will & Grace'

August 24, 1998: The lead graphic promo spot is for the Entertainment Web Center's fall TV preview, with a pic of Will & Grace, which started its debut season in 1998.

Naturally, 20 years later, they couldn't leave well enough alone, and rebooted it.

One other thing I overlooked: Also in the August refresh, we renamed the fifth column, which used to be "Essentials," to "Free Products." Because everyone likes free stuff, and we were trying to increase clickthrough.
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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, August 23, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: August 23, 1998: Where'd the Search Box Go?

August 23, 1998: Another generic Sunday promo. Of course, the "bigger monitor" in the stock image is a CRT. (Looks like a 17-incher.)

Nothing really notable... except that I just realized that there's no AOL Netfind search box anywhere on this version of the page. (A web page without a search field. Unthinkable.)

I had to flip back to see when we took the search field out; it looks like we removed it a week or so after the August 14 design tweak (when we moved it to the left column).

Actually, I'm not 100% sure that was a functional search box to begin with: I still remember a meeting we had with some of the ad folks, who were touting the clickthrough benefits of ads with fake functionality (like entry fields or radio buttons that were just images, to trick users into clicking them). "Faux functionality," they called it. I called it evil.
1998_08_23
[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, August 22, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: August 22,1998 -- Peyton Manning and Post-Strike Assessment

August 22, 1998: The Saturday after the US military strikes on Afghanistan and Sudan, we led with another preseason NFL graphic promo, featuring an up-and-comer named Peyton Manning about to begin his rookie season. The battle damage assessment of the strikes made it into the text promo:

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Speaking of strikes, there's an AOL White Pages promo that references a telephone worker strike that impacted 411 service.

[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, August 21, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: August 21, 1998 -- Aftermath of US Military Strikes and Dow Dips

August 21, 1998: I'm not 100% on the order of the published updates; the first lineup was screenshot off the live site at 11:24am, following up on the prior day's missile strikes against targets in Afghanistan and Sudan. It features the photo we ran the prior day (as well as a stray line break that threw off the table layout a bit):

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Next, we have an updated page that was screenshot (also from the live site) at 3:05pm, with a Personal Finance promo referencing a dip in the Dow, and a text spot about the missile strikes:
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Some where in the mix, there was an updated promo on the missile strikes, featuring a new image of guy burning an American flag; I'm guessing it was the second promo of the day, as a story update while the Dow dip graphic was being created:
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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, August 20, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: August 20, 1998 -- US Military Strikes Bump Lewinsky Testimony

August 20, 1998: The top story was Monica Lewinsky's return to testify before the grand jury. Briefly. The timestamp on the screenshot (it's covered up in the scan) is 2:10pm:
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Then, the US launched cruise missile strikes against targets in Afghanistan and Sudan, bumping Monica out of our top spot (though we left the lead text promo as an update on Major League Baseball's Race to 61, go figure), and providing a modicum of support for theories that the strikes were part of a Wag the Dog strategy.
1998_08_20 
[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, August 19, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: August 19, 1998 -- Want to Retire Early? Click here.

August 19, 1998: Looking at the lineup, you wouldn't know that we were in the heart of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal. The lead promo is a proto-clickbait headline for the Personal Finance Web Center.

On a general note, we'd incorporated the "click here" text into the lead graphic promos because we weren't sure that people would know the image was a clickable link without hypertext. Another concern was that people would just think it was an advertisement. (Imagine that.)

Also, one thing I forgot to notice: Starting the prior Monday, we'd turned the fourth text promo into a static listing of "Daily Essentials": News, weather, stock quotes, and sports scores, which our research at the time indicated were things that people really wanted. (Especially the stock quotes: Remember that this was on the ramp-up to the peak of the dotcom bubble.) 

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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, August 18, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: August 18, 1998 -- Back to School Buyer's Guide (Oh, and Clinton Apologizes)

August 18, 1998: Back to business (if not back to normal) with a Back-to-School Buyer's Guide promo for the Computing Web Center (ugh, look at that lack of hyphenation and the capitalized "to").

Oh, and the top text promo references our My News coverage about President Clinton's post-grand jury testimony live TV address.

1998_08_18
[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, August 17, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: August 17, 1998 -- Clinton Testifies Today

August 17, 1998: Lead item: "Clinton Testifies Today." On Monday, President Bill Clinton became the first president to testify in front of a grand jury; later that evening, he gave a live, televised address where he admitted to his affair. (Here are the contemporaneous news articles from the Washington Post archives.)

Good thing we've left that kind of political turmoil far behind us.
1998_08_17
[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, August 16, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: August 16, 1998 -- Madonna Turns 40

August 16, 1998: Lead item is an Entertainment Web Center promo about Madonna turning 40. So if my calculations are correct, that means in the 2018 present day, she turns 60:
1998_08_16
[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, August 15, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: August 15, 1998 -- More Preseason Football

August 15, 1998: Another preseason NFL promo for a Saturday. The game was 49ers at Seahawks. The photo credit is handwritten at the bottom of the page: "Eric Gay, AP." The screenshot scan is super-crooked. The Seahawks won, 24-21:
1998_08_15
[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, August 14, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: August 14, 1998 -- Design Tweaks, One Month Post-Launch (and the 1998 Avengers)

August 14, 1998: The top graphic spot features Uma Thurman from The Avengers, the big-screen adaptation of the 1960s TV series that had minimal impact compared to the 2012 movie of the same name. (Also, the "Uma is Emma" line was my take on David Letterman's "Oprah, Uma" bit from the 1995 Oscars.)

More importantly, this is one month after the July 14 relaunch, and where we introduced some design tweaks (that I'd forgotten about until I was scrolling through the August photos and saw some differences):
1998_08_14

Here's an animated gif that makes the differences easy to spot:
  • First and foremost, the AOL Netfind search bar below the main promo block (and that previously spanned the top of the five columns) was moved to the AOL Netfind column, which also received a background color to make it stand out more. 
  • We added bolded "Explore [Product Name]" headers above the static list items below the fold, and also made them unordered lists with red bullets.
  • You can also see horizontal dividers between the different column sections. Apparently, we were concerned that people were ignoring the column content.
  • We made an odd font choice, where the column header and promo content was a serif font (probably Times Roman), whereas the list items remained sans serif. It might have just been an artifact of how we published the promos via the promo rotator tool. It looks ugly as hell.
Animated gif comparing the design tweaks to the AOL.com home page one-month postlaunch
[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.]