AOL (formerly a company known as AOL Inc. and originally known as America Online) is a web portal and online service provider based in New York City. Officially founded in 1983 by Marc Seriff, Steve Case, Jim Kimsey, and William von Meister, it is today a brand marketed by Verizon Media.
The service traces its history to an online service known as PlayNET, which hosted multi-player games for the Commodore 64. PlayNET licensed their software to a new service, Quantum Link (Q-Link), who went online in November 1985. PlayNET shut down shortly thereafter. The initial Q-Link service was similar to the original PlayNET, but over time Q-Link added many new services. When a new IBM PC client was released, the company focused on the non-gaming services and launched it under the name America Online. The original Q-Link was shut down on November 1, 1995, while AOL grew to become the largest online service, displacing established players like CompuServe and The Source. By 1995, AOL had about 3 million active users.
AOL was one of the early pioneers of the Internet in the mid-1990s, and the most recognized brand on the web in the United States. It originally provided a dial-up service to millions of Americans, as well as providing a web portal, e-mail, instant messaging and later a web browser following its purchase of Netscape. In 2001, at the height of its popularity, it purchased the media conglomerate Time Warner in the largest merger in U.S. history. AOL rapidly declined thereafter, partly due to the decline of dial-up and rise of broadband. AOL was eventually spun off from Time Warner in 2009, with Tim Armstrong appointed the new CEO. Under his leadership, the company invested in media brands and advertising technologies.
On June 23, 2015, AOL was acquired by Verizon Communications for $4.4 billion.