RealTime IT News

AOL Membership Surges Past 20 Million

America Online Inc. is celebrating an historic moment before the turn of the century, as the leading service provider in the world announced Friday its current membership has topped 20 million.

AOL's (AOL) membership milestone includes 10 million subscribers that have joined AOL over the past two years.

To put AOL's achievement in perspective, its subscriber base represents twice the number of people that watch the USA, ESPN, Nickelodeon, MTV, TBS, CNN, and CNBC cable networks during prime-time, combined. If AOL were a country, its population would rank 43rd among the United Nations' 188 member countries.

Steve Case, AOL chairman and chief executive officer, said he was humbled by the watershed achievement and wanted to thank the 20 million families using AOL services.

"As AOL reaches this important milestone at the start of the Internet Century, we value and celebrate the 20 million AOL members who are helping us to make the interactive medium a central and valuable part of everyday life." Case said.

"Our fast-growing AOL community is creating an increasingly dynamic online experience for all of our members, and leading the growth of this exciting medium around the world. We are gratified that 20 million families are now using AOL, and we look forward to a more connected society where millions more will come online," he added.

AOL executives credit its 4.0 and 5.0 software upgrades, service expansion into more than 15 countries with portals in seven different languages, and the expansion of their AOL Anywhere wireless strategy for the two-year surge from 10 million to 20 million members.

Bob Pittman, AOL president and chief operating officer, said everyone was proud that AOL is becoming one of the most respected and best-known global brands.

"We are continuing to expand and enhance our member experience with new features, functionality, content and e-commerce opportunities, and we are committed to making AOL available anywhere on all emerging interactive platforms," Pittman said.

AOL also announced Friday that it would commit $20 million toward its efforts to span the "digital divide" and offer expanded access to rural and low-income communities.

The AOL Foundation is supported by the volunteer activities of AOL employees. AOL plans to utilize the foundation to boost the effectiveness of servicing areas of the world that do not have access to the Internet.

Case said that because AOL is recognized as a global leader in the industry, the company needs to make sure that everyone has the same opportunity to join the global online community.

"As we build this medium, we recognize our responsibility to help ensure that nobody is left behind. The commitment of $20 million for Digital Divide programs represents a significant opportunity for all of us at America Online to give back to the community and do our part to help ensure the benefits of the Internet revolution are widely available to everyone, Case said.

"We will combine the resources of the company with the skills and enthusiasm of our employees to boost the effectiveness of the best ideas and programs operating across the country to bridge the digital divide," he added.