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AOL “Glitch” Blocks Critical Site

Apr 14, 20062 mins
Data Center

Articles on Slashdot and Ars Technica this week discuss AOL’s blocking of incoming messages containing links to, a Web site that criticizes AOL’s e-mail “tax” (the much discussed and broadly disliked “pay to send” system from Goodmail).

As soon as AOL’s blocking was discovered and publicized AOL removed the block claiming “a glitch”. AOL contends that the “glitch” didn’t only affect messages containing links to but many other sites as well. I find it hard to believe this story as it is just too convenient a cover for what amounts to over-zealous marketing – something that AOL is noted for. Some critics have called it censorship, something it certainly is, but have neglected to position AOL’s actions in the bigger context of a breach of trust. The soon to be implemented pay-to-send system is a breach of trust no matter which way AOL pitches it and this blocking just confirms that breach of trust and that AOL is less concerned with the rights and freedoms of its members than filling its coffers. I wonder though if the majority AOL’s 20 million users are aware of these events and issues? I suspect not and even if they were, would they care? Again, I suspect not. While many of us in the IT industry deplore AOL’s behavior over pay to send the fact is that AOL does satisfy the needs of many people who aren’t computer literate and need Internet access in just the way that AOL provides it. Why is this? Because Microsoft doesn’t. Microsoft was so late to the Internet service game that they have never made TCP/IP networking as simple as it should be. Think of it: The one company that could have set standards and procedures for getting on-line and getting e-mail did such a bad job that bloated marketware like the AOL client are the best that Joe Average can get his hands on. Why is there no product out there that attempts to make the Internet at least as easy to use as AOL without requiring AOL?


Mark Gibbs is an author, journalist, and man of mystery. His writing for Network World is widely considered to be vastly underpaid. For more than 30 years, Gibbs has consulted, lectured, and authored numerous articles and books about networking, information technology, and the social and political issues surrounding them. His complete bio can be found at

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