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The earliest history of what is now AOL (also stylized as “Aol.”) began in 1983. Founded by William von Meister, the company called Control Video Corporation (CVC) and it provided online services for the Atari 2600 video game console. Over the following years, the company leadership and ownership changed multiple times. Even the name and service offerings changed.
By 1989 however, the company was rebranded to America Online and was an early pioneer in offering a service to get online as well as play video games. In the years following, AOL’s popularity grew wildly and the now iconic sign-on phrase “You’ve Got Mail” was symbolic of the massive tech company. It was so popular even the 1998 comedy starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan was named “You’ve Got Mail”
Between changes in leadership, increased competition for email and search services, the .com boom/bust of the year 2000, along with many merger deals, AOL’s popularity began to decline steeply. After acquiring Time Warner for $182 billion in stock and debt (https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/aol-time-warner-formed), AOL reached it’s peak with a combined market cap of over $300 billion.
After the .com bubble burst, plagues of lawsuits, product flops, etc. it would eventually collapse the value so much that by 2015 AOL was acquired by Verizon for $4.4 billion. Verizon hoped to create an even larger media conglomerate with the acquisition of Yahoo for $4.5 billion, bringing both AOL and Yahoo under the “Oath” brand and then naming it “Verizon Media”.
After what appeared to be yet another massive misstep in the mega-merger world, Verizon Media took a massive loss of ~50% selling both AOL and Yahoo to Apollo Global Management in May of 2021 for around $5 billion combined.