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AOL USERS  

If you do not hear back from me, please email me from a non-AOL account.  AOL's practices have always been horrible, but lately it has gotten completely out of hand, and I may not be able to reply to your email at all, and there is nothing I can do about it. As recently as August 2007 I have received email from AOL accounts, and AOL will not let me respond to them AT ALL.

 
I almost never get involved with such things, but based on my own experience and having a good friend who used to work for AOL, I would strongly urge you to either abandon AOL completely or supplement it with a free email account. Gmail and Yahoo are among those who offer free email accounts.There is no telling how much mail you are missing from individuals you want to hear from and companies you do business with online because of AOL's idiotic mail practices.
  
For example, did you know that if someone sends a group email to you, and you write a "reply to all" message, your AOL account may be suspended for violating AOL's Terms of Service Agreement? That happened this week (Jan. '06) to two friends of mine. An innocent email wishing a group of friends Happy New Year resulted in the accounts of AOL people being suspended when they wrote a "reply to all" message. Yes, you read that correctly - they didn't even send the original message, they were recipients! 

AOL apparently now considers almost all group email to be spam and they cancelled their accounts without notice, even though this was a group of friends. One of my friends, a lawyer, called AOL and talked to three people about what constitutes spam when emailing more than one person. She got three different answers - from 30 to as few as six people on your email !! Six! And it doesn't matter what the subject line or content of the message is - this one was simply a New Year's greeting. The most frustrating thing is that AOL is not consistent with this practice - sometimes a group email will get to AOL customers without any problem, and sometimes a simple greeting will get your account cancelled. One AOL employee said the maximum in a group email was 30, another employee said 20, and one said 6.

 
I was not involved in the above situation, but just two weeks ago I had someone contact me from an AOL address, and I couldn't get a message back to them no matter whether I clicked 'reply' or tried composing a new email from any of my email accounts (all non-AOL). I now know that the reason is that once someone is (even wrongly) considered a spammer, AOL blocks all email from that server - which affects possibly hundreds or thousands of innocent users who go through that server. It also explains why I have had several emails to AOL users bounce back with the message that AOL is not accepting email from my server, which happens to be SBC (Southwestern Bell - AT&T). 
 
Anyway - sorry for the soapbox delivery, but this affects my ability to get information to and from you. It could also affect YOU, because, as with my two friends, they received a group email and merely wrote a "reply to all" message to the group and their accounts were cancelled with a violation warning that AOL refuses to reverse.
 
I've know for years that AOL is evil, but being a nonsubscriber it has not directly affected me - until now. So, before you assume I'm a jerk for not responding to your email, please consider that sometimes I try but cannot get anything to go through to you.

IF THAT ISN'T ENOUGH, below is an email regarding AOL current plan to allow spammers to pay AOL to bypass AOL's spam filters. Get ready for (1) a lot more spam to deal with, and (2) having to pay to send email.

Dear AOL User,

We're writing because you haven't yet signed the petition against AOL's "email tax." Some amazing events happened recently—ever since AOL proposed allowing bulk-emailers to pay to bypass AOL's spam filters. 

AOL has seen a big backlash from customers who don't want their inboxes auctioned off—and from hundreds of organizations who would be left with increasingly unreliable email delivery if they didn't pay AOL's "email tax." Over 300,000 people have signed our petition to AOL, each of whom has been given numerous opportunities to contact AOL and help preserve the free and open Internet.

Three weeks ago, the DearAOL.com coalition was formed by 50 organizations—including charities, nonprofits, the political right and left, small businesses, Internet advocates, and small community groups.

Within one week, 400 news outlets across the world reported on our campaign against AOL's "email tax." 50 coalition partners grew to 500—everything from pony clubs and biker clubs to coffee shops and church groups. All of us know that AOL's pay-to-send scheme would harm the free and open Internet which has revolutionized democratic participation, economic innovation, and free speech.

Three additional recent developments have not been good news for AOL:

  • Last Tuesday, the California state Senate announced official hearings on AOL's email tax, saying AOL would create "an internet of haves and haves not"—a "two-tiered world...greatly reducing the outreach potential of many non-profits and small community organizations."1
  • Last Friday, in a New York Times op-ed, AOL email tax supporter Esther Dyson revealed what AOL has been trying to hide: AOL's proposed email tax will lead to a world where "most e-mail will cost money"—something she called "only right." AOL had been denying that their email tax is a big step toward the end of the free and open Internet.2
  • Recently, the Silicon Valley-based San Jose Mercury News editorialized that AOL's pay-to-send proposal "is likely to work as an incentive for AOL to move as many senders as possible to the paid system...the temptation would be to neglect the free e-mail system, whose reliability would decline. Eventually, everyone would migrate to the fee-based system. There would be no way around the AOL tollbooth."3 

AOL has actively tried to deceive their customers about the consequences of their proposal. But now the truth is coming out every day.

Excerpt from New York Times Op-Ed by AOL email tax supporter Esther Dyson, Friday, March 5, 2006

"Goodmail has been met with a barrage of criticism and calls for a de facto boycott from several nonprofit and public interest groups. These organizations seem to think that all Internet mail must always be free, just because it was free before. ...Of course, the critics say, this is the first step. Pretty soon all mail will cost money, and then the free, open world of the Internet will be closed to poor people, nonprofits and other good guys, while multinational conglomerates fill their ever-growing pockets. I agree that pretty soon sending most e-mail will cost money, but I think that's only right."

Excerpt from San Jose Mercury News Editorial, Sunday, March 5, 2006

PAID E-MAIL WILL LEAD TO SEPARATE, UNEQUAL SYSTEMS;
FREE SYSTEMS WILL BECOME NEGLECTED

Ever since the Internet left its free, non-profit and government roots for the commercial world, fears that its gatekeepers would set up tollbooths at every possible juncture have simmered across cyberspace.

AOL recently caused those fears to boil over. The Internet giant announced that in the next 30 days it would launch a certified e-mail system that would guarantee delivery for e-mail senders who paid the equivalent of an electronic postage stamp. Those who don't pay could face a greater risk of having their mail tripped up by AOL's spam filters.

The furor was quick to erupt. A disparate coalition of individuals and groups—including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, MoveOn.org, Gun Owners of America, the Association of Cancer Online Resources, and Craig Newmark of Craigslist fame—warned that it won't be long before everyone will have to pay for e-mail delivery. Small non-profits would be particularly affected. And the use of e-mail would decline, diminishing the power of the Internet to promote free speech. The coalition has called the AOL system an e-mail tax.

...two things stand out about AOL's program, which will be operated by Goodmail, a company based in Mountain View. Unlike other certification programs, Goodmail will share the fees it collects with AOL. And rather than charging a set fee for certifying senders and an annual subscription, Goodmail's program is based on a per-e-mail fee. (All have special, discounted rates for non-profits.)

What's wrong with that? The revenue-sharing agreement is likely to work as an incentive for AOL to move as many senders as possible to the paid system...the temptation would be to neglect the free e-mail system, whose reliability would decline. Eventually, everyone would migrate to the fee-based system. There would be no way around the AOL tollbooth.

AOL says that's nonsense. The amount of money it would collect under the program is very modest...But if the revenue from the program is so small, why doesn't AOL announce it will forgo the fees—a decision that would help silence critics? AOL won't say...The charge per e-mail is also worrisome. The costs of certifying a sender are largely fixed. So the only reason to keep charging a sender who's already been vetted is to turn e-mail into a cash cow.

...It's clear that with a few minor changes, AOL could mollify its critics and alleviate many of the real concerns raised by its plan for certified e-mail. It would be wise to do so, rather than barrel ahead with a plan that could threaten the free and open nature of the Internet...

(Emphasis added.)

It is not correct for the above writer(s) to describe this as a "tax" which would be charged to consumers; AOL's plan is to charge a fee to businesses who want to bypass spam filters in exchange for a promise they aren't really sending spam. The opinions stated above are the credited person/organization's guess as to where that system may lead. For more on this, check snopes.com.

Okay, so you want to take my advice and cancel your AOL account? You might check this link first. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xaaAYVUWP0I