Jewish World Review April 30, 2004 / 9 Iyar 5764

Last week's small revolution

By Mark Kellner | There are many, many people involved in the field of analyzing what goes on in the high-tech world. There are companies named Gartner, IDC and Aberdeen Group, for example. This week, however, let's consider the opinion of one Carmella Soprano, an "independent" analyst in northern New Jersey: "Nothing," she told her soon-to-be-ex-husband Tony "lasts forever."

Last Wednesday, Dulles, Virginia-based America Online made a small announcement. It's not the end of AOL as we've known it for the better part of fifteen years, but it can be viewed as another in a series of changes coming through the online world.

The announcement was that people with various kinds of e-mail "client" software can now get their mail directly from AOL without having to log on using the firm's proprietary software, or via the Web site. Both these methods are still available, but now, using the Internet Message Access Protocol, or IMAP, you can have your AOL mail show up in Microsoft's Outlook, Qualcomm's Eudora, Apple's, or almost any other major e-mail program.

This makes using AOL easier when on the road, as well as enabling the incorporation of AOL mail into the rest of your e-mail accounts. (At work, you can check AOL mail more, shall we say, easily, since it looks like any other e-mail.) You loose the "You've Got Mail!" announcement, but gain access and flexibility.

I've tested this new feature at my office and at home. There appear to be occasional hang-ups with my e-mail software (Microsoft Entourage) not instantly finding AOL, but that may be related to a lag when my computer goes into standby mode. Once "reawakened," the computer, software and AOL all get along just fine.

Donate to JWR

AOL E-mail comes through just fine on the software, and HTML-based messages appear to display well. It's also nice to be able to send AOL mail without having to log on to the service; families that share an AOL account can now let the kids surf safely - using AOL's age-related features -- while Mom or Dad keeps on top of personal e-mail.

This isn't the first time another e-mail client could use AOL Mail, Claris Corp., now known as FileMaker, Inc., had this as part of Claris E-mailer, a Mac-based program from the mid-1990s, now defunct. Also, users of some versions of Netscape, the browser owned by AOL, are able to view AOL e-mail as part of Netscape's mail application.

But opening up AOL to almost all and sundry could be another step in the evolution of AOL. Earlier in April, TimeWarner said its online subsidiary would move more and more content to an HTML format, and not the "Rainmaker" proprietary programming format they've used for several years. There's been some public speculation on whether or not this means AOL will move some features to a Web-based service that makes its money from advertising, but perhaps it means the firm is just tiring of developing a front end its subscribers don't really need.

Could it be, five years from now, that AOL still delivers proprietary content and Internet access, but relies on you to bring a Web browser? It's an interesting idea, and perhaps further ratification that Mrs. Soprano is indeed right: after years of an AOL with which many are familiar, the times they are a-changing.

Find this column useful? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor Mark Kellner has reported on technology for industry newspapers and magazines since 1983, and has been the computer columnist for The Washington Times since 1991.Comment by clicking here.

More small wonders bring delight, challenge
Livin' large, livin' cordless
Small wonders: Gadgets good and bad
The right tool for the right job
Office 2004 for Mac is coming
Good Computer Info? It's In Print
'Office' suite good for price
The Delightful Deja Vu of the iPod Mini
Another check creation option
Blocking pop-up ads
Apple's super-cool iBOOK G4
MSN, the AOL alternative?
It's Konfabu-lous (and other Mac joys)
The world on my wrist, courtesy MSN
Treo 600 is great business tool
How to make good computer choices this year
The year behind, the one ahead
Last minute gifts, and other thoughts
Something special in the air, again
Veterans Admin plans computer revolution
More holiday gifts
Holiday Shopping Ideas (One of a Series)
Now, Mr. Gates Joins War on Spam
Stopping "Phishers" From Scamming You
Staying safe online
Franklin Covey Brings Order to Outlook
Upgrades: Should you do it?
Time to dump Ma Bell?
Palm T3 widens users' options
Electronic reading
Lessons from a hurricane
Can the PC and phone really merge?
The case of the curious keyboard
The season ahead
New keyboard adds flair to motion tablet
Upgrade path smoothes a bit
Dreamweaver, make me a web
Experiments in upgrading
A tale of two headsets
A declaration of Mac-dependence
Fuji's Fine FinePix S602Zoom
In search of good Mac apps
Little gadgets make computing easier
Adobe Acrobat 6.0 scores
Toshiba's Twisting Tablet PC
HP printer a steady worker
iTunes store, Mailblocks are cool online services
Palm's objects of D-Zire
Gateway's Tablet a winner
Outlook 2003 beta: A promising program
Tungsten's handy "Dubya"
Lexmark's winning all-in-one
Wireless ways
Long distance tech support does trick
Tablet Planner software a hit
Up and down the road with Joyride
Clarion's "AutoPC" is no "Joyride"
Apple's Keynote is PowerPoint for less
Moving adventures
Traveling companions
HP's Compaq Tablet PC a winner
The war on spam continues
Browser for Mac users has good start
New Adobe software organizes photos
The year the PC grew up
PC meets philately: one hit, one miss
Digital Nikon camera a winner, at a price
Honey, they shrunk the COMDEX
Last-minute ideas
Microsoft's Tablet PC has promise, problems
Upgrade with a plan
Palm's New Tungsten PDA Shows Its Mettle
Nobody asked me, but ...
Love, in Quicktime
T-Mobile's sidekick a good partner
Put on a (happy, unwrinkled, tanned, whatever) face
Apple software upgrade very useful
I came, I saw, iPod
How's that? A tech critic reflects, briefly
Satellite radio gets favorable reception
HP's desktop printing marve
Mac satisfaction --- and some really good software
Off to college ... with eMachines
Have PC, must travel
After Shot manages your digital camera images
X200: Mobile worker's fantasy
Beware: Consumers face a fee for printing own checks

© 2004 News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of The Washington Times. Visit the paper at