Saturday, January 11, 2020

#20YearsAgoOnAOLcom: Jan. 11, 2000 -- My Calendar, AOL Time Warner Merger, a Redesign, and a Wrapup

January 11, 2000: Well, this is it -- we've reached the end of the line: This is last day of screenshots I have of the AOL.com home page for this series. I'd continue to program the home page for a good long while more; I just stopped taking regular screenshots, for reasons which will become clear shortly.

For the morning lineup, the top promo is the same My Calendar promo we'd used before, with a "Be Fiscally Fit" item for good measure.

However, if you look below in the corporate links, you'll see, "AOL & Time Warner Will Merge -- Listen To and View Archive Files of the Analysts' Call and Press Conference." The AOL Time Warner merger (*cough* acquisition) was actually announced January 10 after market close, though I only had a preview of that page. But I guess that's as good a one as any to close on:
2000_01_11

But Wait, There's More!

I was all set to end this on a pretty anticlimactic note. But then I was in my office looking for something, and found the reason why I stopped screenshotting the home page: It was because Tuesday, Jan. 11 was the launch of our new redesign! And I have full screenshots, printed on ledger paper, from launch day!

I say "screenshots," because there are two versions of the page: a non-logged in view (including external browsers... that is, browsers not integrated with the AOL client); you can tell it's the non-authenticated view because of the AOL screenname and password fields, which were real, functioning fields:
2000_01_11-aolcom-outclient-home

And a logged-in view. At least, I think this is the logged-in view. I may have my timelines mixed up, but because we started really integrating AOL Mail into the homepage, and getting identity information from the AOL client, that's when the member and non-member (or non-authenticated member) views of the page really started to diverge:
2000_01_11-aolcom-inclient-home
The external view of the homepage, which included people using external browsers -- non-AOL members and AOL members who hadn't signed in with their AOL credentials -- would eventually feature big, billboard style TRY AOL 10 ZILLION HOURS FREE ads that basically replaced the top half of the right column. But I don't remember if we launched with that here. (Unless these screenshots were doctored [which is always possible], these were screenshots using the AOL client browser -- you can tell because of the AOL Favorite Places heart in the upper right corner.)

I seem to remember that we made you enter your screen name and password to access your AOL Webmail, even from within the AOL client. Some time later, we made it so that if you were using the AOL client's browser, it would automatically identify and authenticate you into AOL Mail with the screen name you were using. Convenient, right? NO! The users howled at us, because we hadn't taken into account the following use case: AOL members, logged into their AOL client, using AOL.com and AOL Webmail to log in and check the mailboxes of their other AOL Screen Names. (They could have five, later seven, total screen names.) For them, AOL Webmail was their way of easily checking mail from other their accounts, without having to log in and out of the client. Lesson learned.

Anyway, you can see the other major design changes:

  • The colored block sections, of course. We really gave Community features short shrift here (though to be fair, many of those features weren't yet available outside the AOL client)
  • "AOL Anytime, Anywhere" branding (we'd later rebrand the site to be "AOL Anywhere," per executive whim.)
  • Four small ad spots up top-- four times the impressions compared to a single banner ad! --  except that when they showed duplicate ads, it really looked like a slot machine jackpot payoff
  • A text ad above the top nav bar
  • The My News news feed headlines up high
  • An auto-generated date field (removing at least one potential source of human error)
  • The new, ridiculous postage-stamp sized promo block. Seriously, that was basically it, and it was a weird, non-standard size. I think 63x63?
  • The Shopping block went from categories to brands.
  • The super-truncated Web Centers listings.

And, down below, you can see a link to a note about the redesign launch, as well as the item about the merger.

Closing Thoughts

So, to wrap things up: Publishing the home page was a grind (in addition to doing a bunch of other things for the AOL.com site that I'm sure were very worthwhile), and doing this series of blog entries and Twitter posts brought back a little of that. I specifically scheduled the blog posts to publish at 3AM ET, because that's when the AOL.com promos updated for each new day.

I could have gone more under the hood, talking about Shark and Shakespeare, promo rotators, push tools, include files, staging servers, tracking redirects, etc, but you get the picture.

I'd continue to do the home page for a year or two more, through a few redesigns and aborted launches (two in a row, including one that was ahead of its time, with integrated AIM Express Buddy List right there on the page!). We did more segmentation (in-client and out-of-client views), though they didn't go to dynamic programming and more dayparts until after I switched groups.

I may have other screenshots tucked away on hard drives or CD-ROMs (some of which I can't get to anymore), though I think this is it for the hard copies. I'm pretty sure I have a 9/11 screenshot somewhere, too.

Anyway, here we are, 20 years later. I hope this archive is useful to someone, even if it's just for nostalgia purposes. For me, it was part memory job, part writing prompt to get me posting online again. So we'll see what happens with that.

[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, January 10, 2020

#20YearsAgoOnAOLcom: Jan. 10, 2000 -- Almost at the End, with AOL Mail

January 10, 2000: Well, we're getting near the end of this feature; tomorrow's will be the last screenshot printout scan that I have. But for today, we have another AOL Mail promo, along with greetings (e-cards) and web chats. (There's no PM update for some reason, even though this was a regular Monday):
2000_01_10
[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, January 09, 2020

#20YearsAgoOnAOLcom: Jan. 9, 2000 -- Buy a Car in 2000

January 9, 2000: Ugh, that headline capitalization. Anyway, new and used car listings, featuring a red... car. Supra? Mazda? Can't tell from the photo:
2000_01_09

[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, January 08, 2020

#20YearsAgoOnAOLcom: Jan. 8, 2000 -- Back to Sports Roundup

January 8, 2000: Now that the holiday shopping season was over, it was safe to return to the routine of Saturday sports roundups, featuring NFL playoff action and an evergreen promo (with Eddie George photo) that wouldn't acknowledge the realtime result of what would come to be known as the Tennessee Titans' Music City Miracle:
2000_01_08

[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, January 07, 2020

#20YearsAgoOnAOLcom: Jan. 7, 2000 -- Get Organized (Again); Love Matches

January 7, 2000: Geez, we were beating the My Calendar drum pretty hard, weren't we? Customization features theoretically made AOL.com more sticky for users, so there's that:
2000_01_07
For the PM update, we went back to Love@AOL and photo personals, with another closeup, open mouth, kissy face stock photo:
2000_01_07a

[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, January 06, 2020

#20YearsAgoOnAOLcom: Jan. 6, 2000 -- AIM 3.0, Escape Winter

January 6, 2000: For the morning lineup, we went with AIM 3.0 (with the usual static promo image, which didn't show up for some reason):
2000_01_06
For the PM update, we got away from resolutions and went with winter escapes (presumably to somewhere warm):
2000_01_06a

[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, January 05, 2020

#20YearsAgoOnAOLcom: Jan. 5, 2000 -- Customized Web Experience = Garfield

January 5, 2000: The state of web page customization in 2000 -- the ability to stick a comics module on your My AOL.COM page (okay, and news headline and weather blocks). Hence the Garfield comic promo, even though it wasn't a Monday:
2000_01_05
For the PM update, we continued with the New Year's resolutions, looking to the old standby, weight loss:
2000_01_05a

[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, January 04, 2020

#20YearsAgoOnAOLcom: Jan. 4, 2000 -- Get Organized in 2000

January 4, 2000: We continued with self-improvement/resolution-focused content, with My Calendar promising to... I dunno, help you organize your life, along with custom news and budgeting tips:
2000_01_04
For the PM update, we went with more communications tools (loosely defined) with AIM 3.0, web chats, and free e-cards. At least we went with slightly more diverse subjects in the stock photo:
2000_01_04a

[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, January 03, 2020

#20YearsAgoOnAOLcom: Jan. 3, 2000 -- Back to the Grind in the Year 2000

January 3, 2000: For the first Monday of the new (popular) millennium, we went prosaic: AOL Mail, My Calendar, and customized My AOL.COM News:
2000_01_03
For the PM update, we went back to the Love@AOL well, with photo personals, a date planner, and Romance Chat (public chat rooms were just jumping off points to the more interesting stuff):
2000_01_03a

[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, January 02, 2020

#20YearsAgoOnAOLcom: Jan. 2, 2000 -- Year 2000 Events

January 2, 2000: Things would be "Year 2000" this and that for a bit longer, as the novelty faded (pretty quickly). For this Sunday promo, we went with more news coverage of Y2K and New Year's, with photos, chats, and a stock promo photo that looks like it was a closeup shot of an IBM Selectric typewriter ball stolen from the Mystery Science Theater 3000 logo:
2000_01_02

[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, January 01, 2020

#20YearsAgoOnAOLcom: Jan. 1, 2000 -- Happy New Year in the Year 2000

January 1, 2000: For the survivors of Y2K (that is, everyone), we went with a newsy lineup, featuring a photo gallery of New Year's celebrations (leading in the promo spot with a wire service pic of fireworks going off behind the Washington Monument; even in this crappy scan of a printout, you can see the scaffolding from the restoration); more news, and free e-cards:
2000_01_01

January also marks the nearing of the end of this feature, since it looks like I stopped taking screenshots on January 12. I will continue until then.

[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 31, 2019

#20YearsAgoOnAOLcom: Dec. 31, 1999 -- "Century's End" at New Year's Eve

December 31, 1999: For New Year's Eve, I was able to work in a Steely Dan reference (well, Steely Dan adjacent -- Donald Fagen's "Century's End"). The promo was pre-scheduled, of course, and the promo blocks of the AOL.com home page weren't critical infrastructure, so I wasn't on call. If anything bad happened, for Y2K or anything else, I'd be in it just like everyone else. So, as I recall, I spent Y2K getting loaded at a friend's house party:
1999_12_31
[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 30, 2019

#20YearsAgoOnAOLcom: Dec. 30, 1999 -- Work From Home

December 30, 1999: Working from home was still a bit of a novelty in 1999; we featured some sort of personal events calendar, AOL Mail, and free chat. (Not sure how that last one fits in to support work, unless we're talking AIM, not chat rooms.)
1999_12_30
[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 29, 2019

#20YearsAgoOnAOLcom: Dec. 29, 1999 -- Make Resolutions

December 29, 1999: No surprises with your standard pack of resolutions: Lose weight, build a web page, find a new job:

1999_12_29

[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 28, 2019

#20YearsAgoOnAOLcom: Dec. 28, 1999 -- Resolve for 2000

December 28, 1999: Getting close to the New Year, and more importantly, the start of the (popular) millennium, we went with some self-improvement items for resolution material -- organizing, exercise, and finance tips:
1999_12_28
[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.]