You’ve Got Problems!

A brief history of AOL’s misfortunes.

September 2003


“AOL” is scratched from the AOL Time Warner’s name following a board vote. The stock symbol returns to TWX from AOL a month later.

February 2004

AOL is the official sponsor of the Super Bowl halftime show in which Janet Jackson suffers a “wardrobe malfunction.”

March 2004

Google launches Google Maps, to compete with AOL’s MapQuest. MapQuest’s traffic flatlines while Google sees 135% annualized growth.

April 2005


AOL launches AOL Internet Phone. Eighteen months later, with just 2,000 subscribers, it is shuttered.

May 2006

AOL launches AIM Pages, its own social networking site, after News Corp. buys MySpace. AIM Pages fails to carve out a niche, and after about a year, it is merged with the old AOL member directory.

July 2006

AOL execs, struggling to craft a new mission statement, settle for vagueness: “To serve the world’s most engaged community.”

August 2006


AOL releases private search data for more than 650,000 users. Lawsuit ensues. CTO resigns.

August 2006

AOL announces it will open all of its content to the public for free, committing to an ad-based business model, years after Yahoo, Google, and others.

November 2006

After posting his third consecutive quarter of better than 40% ad-revenue growth, CEO Jon Miller is fired. NBC vet Randy Falco takes over.

January 2007


Time Warner’s stock, after climbing 44% in five months, tracking AOL’s ad-revenue growth, peaks at $23 a share and begins to fall.

April 2007

A redesigned AOL home page draws criticism for its striking similarity to Yahoo’s, which launched in 2006.

May 2007

AOL’s search page, long powered by Google, with ads served by Google, is redesigned to look exactly like Google.

August 2007


Time Warner announces AOL’s second-quarter online-ad revenue grew only 16%, well below the industry average.

September 2007

Falco announces he’s moving AOL’s official headquarters from Dulles, Virginia, to New York.

October 2007

Falco announces a plan for 2,000 layoffs. On the fateful day — dubbed Bloody Tuesday by bloggers — 750 employees in Dulles get the ax.

January 2008


Jeff Bewkes, who had overseen the AOL division as COO and president of Time Warner, is elected CEO of TWX.

February 2008

AOL announces weak sales, and Time Warner hints that it might want to sell. With Microsoft targeting Yahoo for takeover, two of the most likely buyers are suddenly much less likely.