I had never experienced AOL, other than receiving all those diskettes and CDs over the years. I think the funniest AOL CD was the one co-branded with the Royal Bank of Canada. Say what?
While in Germany visiting an elderly relative, I was excited to learn that she had Internet! Excited, because I thought I would be sans-Internet for 3-4 days.
All I needed to do, I figured, was unplug the ethernet cable from her computer, and then plug it into my notebook computer. But it could not connect to the Internet. Hmm.
The relative offered to phone a friend "who knew about computers." The reply: I needed to run the AOL software. Huh? I ran it on her computer, but that didn't work either. She then connected me with her son, who lives some 400km away. He told me that the DSL modem provided by T-connect has a problem and does not always connect. So, I just needed to retry a number of times. And that I had to use the AOL software, because AOL was the ISP.
Shocking, but true. My notebook computer couldn't simply plug in, because the DSL modem worked only with AOL software, which is like a wrapper around a branded version of Internet Explorer. Even IE would not work on the relative's computer, because only the AOL software was allowed to connect to the Internet.
And AOL is still in business? Amazing that such lock-in could exist in today's world. Reminded me of using CompuServe in the late 1980s.
In the end, I managed to access my email through the dreadful AOL software. But it sure was an unpleasant experience.