Blog Post

AOL Hopes Users Will Take a Free Ride — AOL OpenRide, That Is

[By Staci D. Kramer] The rush of new offerings from the new AOL — security, storage space, parental controls, mail, phone and more — has been almost dizzying in recent weeks. The latest launch comes today (it should be live now): AOL OpenRide, a broadband-oriented combination browser and online information manager that allows at-a-glance access to mail, IM, media center and browser. It also could be described as a multi-tasking desktop for online apps or as an ungated version of the AOL all-in-one experience. I first saw it last week in New York during a briefing with Joel Davidson, EVP-products and technology, and Roy Ben-Joseph.
Users of AOL 9.0 might seem like the natural target but it’s aimed at the mid-level consumer with broadband who already uses all these functions but doesn’t have an easy way to connect them. Sign-in isn’t required for what the OpenRide team calls “core experiences” but an AOL screenname enhances personalization. It’s XP reliant and will work with Vista; AOL execs said the choice has to do with usage and if that changes, additional platforms would be considered. (A tour is here.) The core components:
— a “Quad View” interface that shows four windows at once, adjusting them based on use. Click on email and that window expands, turning the browser tabs into miniature pages. Click on one of those, and that expands, reducing the screen space for other functions. Drag and drop works between the panes.
— The Dynasizer, which most users will think of as the circle in the middle, can be dragged to manually resize screens.
— Multiple email account access including automated help adding accounts from various ISPs and services.
— A Media Center that allows viewing of video online or from the user’s computer and access to AOL’s radio stations as well as audio from a personal library. AOL Video in the player has a matching preroll and banner ad. But viral video isn’t marked to match AOL Uncut since the goal is to draw from all video, not be AOL specific.
— Tabbed browsing with a rendering engine based on IE, which may appeal to IE users who don’t want to wait for IE 7 to leave beta.
— Free security features that can be turned off.
— Prominent placement of search. The new version of AOL Search due this fall will be included.
— XDrive access will be included in the next release.
Why not get even more personalized, say offering videos based on previous selection? Davidson explained: “My opinion on this is it’s better to look at groups of people’s preferences versus individual preferences.” Privacy is a concern; I got the sense that was the case even before the recent sensitivity-raising reaction to releasing identifiable data.
— They expect OpenRide to be used more at home, AOL.com at the office. They’ll spend the next 6-12 months unifying the experience across various AOL properties but, for the most part, it’s more about creating a user experience where AOL products and services can be used or showcased (carefully) instead of must be used.
First look: I haven’t been able to test all the facets but the install worked fairly well — a few pre-launch glitches — and so far the multitask elements are showing some signs of why AOL says it’s for people trying to keep sight of most of their online activity at once. The dynamic sizing and the instant resizing take some getting used to. The me-too/copycat chorus might seriously consider holding back this time and looking at OpenRide on its own merits. AOL is trying something different.

6 Responses to “AOL Hopes Users Will Take a Free Ride — AOL OpenRide, That Is”

  1. BARBARA CASS

    I tried openride and it created havoc with my computer. It erased years of music playlists and messed with the screen…finally it said the aol.mainfile. has been damaged..I tried tech support..all they did was deny it could create problems..until I finally talked yet another tech who admitted "openride is an unsuccessful program" I am extremely disappointed in AOL…have been a longtime member, but reconsidering that now.

  2. Ma. del Rocio Herrera Durán

    Muchas Gracias por tan Gran Servicio, tal vez somos pocos los que podemos decir esto, ya que AOL, es y seguira siendo el Portal de la Información No 1.

    Felicidades.

  3. Jerzee_Girl

    AOL 9.0 Security and Open Ride both STINK…they slow down your system terribly…I had them both installed on Gateway laptop running XP home…just tried installing Open Ride version for Vista on new HP desktop…and when it first opens…you can see 4 panes but then only converts to Browser pane…and have to select others seperately…not to mention something seemed to still be running even after it was opened. Needless to say I removed it!

  4. I was having all kins of probelms woth AOL 9.0. My computer kept turning off and rebooting itself. So I decided to try AOL Open Ride. It worked ok for a week and now I cannot get my AIM account nor the Open Ride to open. The hourglass pops up and nothing else happens, I have to enter through Internet Explorer, go to the web to enter AOL.com and then open my mail through some old version. Is anyone else having this trouble or have any advice?

    I also do not like the e-mail configuration. The address book is terrible as the same e-mail is listed mulitple times under several letters. By the time I click on each letter, I can't keep track of who I sent it to and who I didn't. Also, I do not like having new and read messages on the same page. It is too messy and too distracting.

    A disappointed AOL customer.

  5. AOL user since 95

    I've been a AOL member since 1995 and despite its lack of software for the MAC community (aka, just about as good as AOL 1.0 was), I have stayed true to them and paid them much money over the years, even now despite having separate broadband for 4 years. I have (sadly) changed to using a PC and now have downloaded the Open Ride. I am extremely disappointed with it. It's way too easy to click on that little button in the mid of the quad that resizes the windows. In the email window I am distracted by the big banner advertisement, as opposed to what emails I have. I signed onto the AIM that is included with it, and I know a message came through from my grandmother, but for the life of me I can't figure out where it disappeared to.

    I doesn't always shut down, I have to do the ctrl/alt/esp sequence to shut it down, and ever since they day i downloaded it, my printer has been acting erratically and my screen savers are acting up, either running slow, distorted graphics and sometimes won't go back to the regular screen. Is that related? I don't know, I did notice though, that there is now a AOL live screen saver in my screen save options that gives me live information. This is the first time in the 2 months of having a new computer that I have had problems with it. I am about to erase it to see if the printer and screen saver gets fixed. I just decided to see if there was info about anyone else having the same problems.

    Last, but not least, and maybe this is more of a personal peeve, but if you have seen the "tour" of the software you have seen Regina Lewis glaring at you through her bangs, impatiently waiting for you to click on something so she can show you. If that is not bad enough, I have seen her appear a few times on the software now that it is downloaded. I feel like I am being scolded when shes looking at me.