AOL Says Nine's Fine for Broadband


America Online Inc. says nine-point-oh will be the way to go for broadband users when it debuts later this summer.

The nation's largest Internet-service provider is readying AOL 9.0 Optimized, a new service update it said will make Web surfing much easier — particularly for its broadband customers. Though AOL isn't revealing all of the new tricks and tools and features now, when the software debuts it will likely be one of the biggest upgrades in the company's history, according to spokeswoman Ann Bentley.

"Users have an appetite for upgrades — especially broadband users, where they can literally download it in a snap of your fingers," she noted. Given that AOL just released its AOL 8.0 Plus software upgrade in late March, "we are just on a relentless pursuit of innovation in delivering that to members now.

"We're not just going to do one client release a year and call it a day. We are really focused on getting innovations out to members and into their hands."

Among the details AOL is releasing about the upgrade are built-in safety and security protection, including built-in anti-spam software that gets smarter the longer it's used by customers.

For parents, there is Web Unlock, an enhanced content control that allow them to "unlock" off-limits Web sites if they decide that is appropriate.

Many of the messaging upgrades are available to all users, but are particularly useful to broadband customers, Bentley said. That will include the 3D-animated Super Buddy icons; AOL Talk, which translates messages spoken into a microphone or a universal serial bus phone into instant-messaging text; video messenger, which allows users to send video clips to each other; and photo and file sharing.

Users also will see changes to their e-mail service, with heavy emphasis on file storage.

"Broadband users tend to create, author, share a lot of content online," Bentley said. "We are now offering the ability to permanently store up to 20 megabytes of mail on our servers that is accessible from anywhere — which I think is going to be really beneficial to folks."

Also a key feature is Web-accelerator software that will speed page downloads for broadband and narrowband customers alike.

"We've always done caching and compressing of Web pages on the service — actually since 1995," Bentley said. "This is a new layer of enhancements that we are making.

"We are not actually getting out there with a number, like 'it is X times faster for folks,' because we are testing that right now. It's just about making the download speeds faster for everyone across the board, whether you are on dialup or you are on broadband."

Along with the software upgrade, AOL plans to add to its lineup of on-demand and exclusive online content, ranging from music and concerts to sports and news. For those who opt for the $14.95 monthly "Bring Your Own Access" broadband service, the value of the content is more than $100 per month, Bentley said.

"That's a big push for us," said Bentley. "We are trying to have our users and Internet users at large understand that adding AOL to a basic broadband connection is the only service soup to nuts in broadband.

"In addition to broadband unlimited access [and] unlimited dial-up roaming nationwide in that service fee, we also allow multiple family members to sign on and share the broadband connection. So we are adding a little bit more on top of having just the broadband connection."