How to Export Your AOL Address Book

2010-1-8 UPDATE: Good news!  According to one of our commenters, AOL has added an “Import/Export” option under the “Tools” menu when you log in at AOL.com.  Just log in and select Export from the Tools menu.  Then select your file type, such as CSV, and download.  Done!  Check it out and let us know how it worked for you.

2009-5-14 UPDATE: Gmail just made it super easy to switch to Gmail and import your mail, contacts, everything!  See this post on the Gmail blog and this post on TechCrunch.

(Skip down a few paragraphs to get to how to export AOL contacts.)

I hesitate to post this, as it both dates me and exposes me as someone who (still) has an AOL email address (also I rip into AOL pretty harshly).  In my defense, I’ve had (and used) many other email accounts for many years, and I registered the AOL email addresses way back in 1993, the year the Mosaic web browser came out and when:

  • computers ran at 0.01 GHz, not 3 GHz
  • there was no such thing as Internet search engines, social networks, or blogs, let alone Google, Facebook or WordPress
  • there was no broadband Internet access
  • people used pagers instead of cell phones, and
  • kids still got their p0rn from magazines (I hear)

Man, talk about the stone ages (see Wikipedia’s History of the Internet page).  It was nice, actually, but that’s another post.

Before we get into the tirade, it might be good to review the ad hominem fallacy fallacy.  Also, a disclaimer: This is just an opinion piece, and my opinion is that AOL sucks.  Your opinion may differ.

Back to AOL, which does indeed suck…

…don’t take my word for it, just Google “AOL sucks” and you will see hundreds of thousands of pages on the topic, including a Google Group and this amazing YouTube video of a guy simply trying to cancel his account, which it turns is not allowed at AOL (more below).

But why does AOL suck so much? How could it suck so much?  It’s not possible… is it?  Amazingly, it is.  Not only is it possible, but it’s reality.  Yes, a company this sucky does exist and executives this sucky do have jobs (and get paid a lot of money). It’s crazy, I know, but it’s true.

Among the many reasons AOL sucks: AOL tries to lock you in.  Here’s how:

  1. You cannot setup email forwarding.  Yes, you can use POP or IMAP to access AOL from an email client or other online service, but why not allow forwarding like everybody else?  Because they’re doing everything they can to make it hard for you to leave.  That’s their core strategy.
  2. You cannot simply export your address book. You heard me right. Yes it’s 2008, yet this shithead company does not have an Export button as part of its address book.  Why?  Same reason as above.
  3. You can’t cancel online (you have to call).  Why?  Same.
  4. And when you do call to cancel, this is what you get: Video and news report of actual AOL cancellation attempt.  But why?  How?  Is it real or some sick episode of the Twilight Zone?  It’s real.  They are trained “professionals.”  Again, don’t take my word for it, see these two consumerist.com articles: AOL Retention Manual Revealed and AOL Retention Manual Uploaded in Full.  Yes, that second post links to this creepy 88-page AOL document (7MB pdf).

There are workarounds to these problems, of course, but the fact that anyone would actually pursue such a losing and sleazy strategy… it’s amazing.  In fact, it tells you all you need to know about these a-holes.  It tells you that their solution to the “AOL sucks and people want to leave” problem is not to make AOL less sucky, but to make it more costly for you to leave.  In MBA lingo, they are raising your switching costs.  Yes, don’t make the product better, make it harder and more costly for people to leave.  Smart.  What kind of idiot would think that’s a good and sustainable strategy?  Even if it was (it’s not), what kind of assholes would try to impliment such a shithead, backward, and failing strategy?  This kind.

This is their business strategy, straight from the top.  It reveals the true side of AOL.  And wow, it’s ugly.  I wonder if Harvard has done a case study about this yet?  Because a strategy like this can NEVER work (I pretty much never say “never,” but I’ll do it right here, right now).  They are jackasses if they think this will do anything more than delay the inevitable (at best).  Most likely this strategy will accelerate the decline and death/spin-off of what’s left of the company.

People who do any research before signing up will realize that AOL is the Hotel California of service providers (Facebook has some problems in that department, too).  No one will knowingly sign up for a piece-of-shit service from a piece-of-shit company who’s business strategy revolves around preventing people from leaving rather than making better products.

I personally recommend anyone considering signing up for AOL not to do it.  BTW, I would never have written this post if it were not for the 4-point list, above.

Now on to How to Export Your AOL Address Book:

Here’s a copy of my recent text chat transcript:

Customer How do I export my AOL address book (ideally to a CSV file)?

AOLTechAJO Please allow me to explain further regarding your concern.

AOLTechAJO There is no built-in AOL feature that will allow you to transfer addresses from one screen name to another automatically. You could print the address book, then manually enter the information into the other address book. [That was AOL’s solution #1, can you believe it?!]

Customer How do I export my AOL address book (ideally to a CSV file)?

AOLTechAJO Alternatively, using the original screen name send an e-mail to everyone you want to add to your other screen name asking them to e-mail your other screen name. As you receive e-mail at the other screen name, add the address to the address book. [That was AOL’s solution #2, another manual process.]

Customer Both of those “solutions” suck. How do I export my AOL address book (ideally to a CSV file)?

AOLTechAJO You will need to use Plaxo if you would like to export your Address Book. [Finally the first hint of a partially automated process, but it requires using another piece-of-shit piece of software (from a POS company) you need to download and install.]

Customer How do I do that? Can you please give me the instructions?

AOLTechAJO You will need to download the software on Plaxo.

AOLTechAJO Please access http://www.plaxo.com/downloads

Customer But what are the instructions?

Customer Or are you going to walk me through it right now?

AOLTechAJO From the Download page, you can select on the program that is compatible with your computer, you can select on Outlook.

Customer I don’t use Outlook

Customer I have Windows XP

AOLTechAJO That is the only way you can export your AOL Address Book. [Why didn’t he tell me about this in the first place? Why did he instead tell me to print my address book and enter hundreds or thousands of email addresses by hand, with the alternative of spamming everyone and then individually adding them when they replied. Even more, why isn’t there an Export feature, or at least a page providing step-by-step instructions.  How/why is it possible for one company to repeadity and consistently be such a short-sited shithead who chooses to make it harder for people to leave instead of making a better product.]

Customer Ok, so I’ll get Outlook. What a pain in the ass. AOL really does suck, doesn’t it?

Customer Then what?

AOLTechAJO Yes, you will need to use Outlook.

Customer BTW, not pissed at you, thank you for helping…. but I hate AOL.

AOLTechAJO Here is the page: http://www.plaxo.com/downloads/outlook

Customer Ok, and then what. How to export the address book? To CSV?

AOLTechAJO That page includes the steps on how to download Plaxo using Outlook and Export your AOL Address Book.

Customer Ok, but then what. How do I get address book out of Plaxo?

Customer I need those instructions.

AOLTechAJO Please hold while I check on the steps. Meanwhile, please access the site first.

Customer Ok, will do. I’m accessing now. Thank you 🙂

AOLTechAJO Thank you for waiting. I appreciate your patience.

Customer Ok, thanks for checking. I am downloading now. Will do it with Outlook Express.

AOLTechAJO Okay.

Customer I need help setting that up to work with AOL. It wants the Incoming mail server info and the Outgoing mail server info. Please get me that 🙂 Thanks!

AOLTechAJO I’m going to send you an article right now that contains the information you need. It will appear in the area above our text session. Let me know if you have questions. I’ll stand by.

Customer The mail server options don’t matter to that.

AOLTechAJO AOLTechAJO pushes page, http://help.aol.com/help/microsites/search.do?cmd=displayKC&docType=kc&externalId=217453&sliceId=1&docTypeID=DT_AOLHOW_TO_1_1&dialogID=4664493&stateId=0%200%204676857

Customer I got the article. Thanks. What next?

AOLTechAJO Once done configuring your Outlook with your AOL Account, you can then transfer your Address Book on Outlook.

Customer Ok, it’s got the address book in Outlook Express. So I can export it from there? Yes? Thanks.

AOLTechAJO Yes.

Customer What a pain. Thank you for walking me through it. You are great. AOL, however, I do not like.

Customer Thank you 🙂

AOLTechAJO You’re welcome.

AOLTechAJO Is there anything else I can assist you with at this time?

Customer Tha’s all. Thanks a lot. Tell your boss and people that AOL needs an easy way for people to export their address books.

Customer And setup forwarding.

Customer And that people think AOL sucks because it tries to lock people in.

Customer 🙂

AOLTechAJO I understand you have a valid concern. Rest assured, I will be submitting your feedback to the appropriate department so they can look deeper into this.

Customer Have a nice day and thanks again!

AOLTechAJO You’re welcome.

Closing Comments: This got my address book out of AOL, into Plaxo, out of Plaxo, and into Outlook Express.  Next I exported from Outlook and imported into Thunderbird.  From Thunderbird I was able to export to CSV, open in spreadsheet, clean up, etc.  Then import to my new address book.  What shitheads.

PS: In Landslide, John McCain Is The President Of AOL.com.

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31 thoughts on “How to Export Your AOL Address Book

  1. Excerpts from:
    Michael Wolff: MySpace And Its Braindead Users Are Going To Zero
    Henry Blodget | December 1, 2008 8:06 PM
    http://www.alleyinsider.com/2008/12/michael-wolff-myspace-and-its-braindead-users-are-going-to-zero/page/1

    JF: [Y]ou can’t just move. It’s a pain in the ass. All your stuff is there.

    MW: But that’s exactly what they said about AOL.

    JF: You did not develop that relationship with AOL.

    MW: You did. You exactly did.

    JF: How?

    MW: Your email was there, because your friends were there. I mean, AOL operated actually as the community of its day. There were all of those—

    JF: But besides the email and, OK, the—

    MW: There were the infinite number of chat rooms. Layer upon layer upon layer of sex chat rooms.

    JF: Of course. And I give you credit for having pointed to that as the secret driver of its success. But, all you need is a different chat room. You don’t have pictures up [on AOL]. You don’t have your history up there. You don’t have—

    MW: It doesn’t matter. What they saw at the time was that [users] were absolutely wedded to AOL. That was Time Warner’s bet on that.

    JF: AOL was monodimensional in a way that MySpace is not. I don’t think that’s particularly debatable.

    MW: I don’t think that’s true. I think it is–if you’re on MySpace now, you’re a [expletive] cretin. And you’re not only a [expletive] cretin, but you’re poor. Nobody who has beyond an 8th grade level of education is on MySpace. It is for backwards people.

    JF: [unsuccessfully stifling laughter] I don’t mean to get all Murdoch’s-kids on you [an obscure reference to an earlier part of the conversation], but if you are in a band, you are on MySpace. You have to be on MySpace. That’s a powerful driver. And second of all– if I am to accept your reasoning, even though I don’t–as the success of [News Corp’s British tabloid] The Sun will tell you, there are lot of cretins out there and you can make a lot of money off cretins. By appealing to their essential–

  2. Wow. You have been using the web since ’93 and needed help with this? Too funny. I do not care for AOL either, and would never waste my time dealing with their “customer service”; btw, nobody that still uses AOL cares.

  3. You are preaching to the choir in some respects, coldbrew. In others you’ve exposing yourself as the guy who takes the low hanging troll bait. Were you the person who raised his hand to answer the easy questions in class, too? The questions that everyone else knew the answer to (except you)?

    For the record, my Gmail sign up date is six months after its launch, while it was still invite-only: http://tinyurl.com/gmail-signup-date/. This blog launched before Gmail even existed. I’m not a hacker, but I know more than the average person does about computer and Internet technology.

    Anyway, I did this little AOL investigation and reporting for three main reasons:

    1) To test the hypothesis that, despite being caught in repeated abuses, AOL still had not reformed. The best way to (verifiably) test that hypothesis was to record a “customer service” chat. Done. Turns out AOL is still a shithead company. Who’d a thunk it?! Maybe we’ll check back again in a few years, if AOL even exists (doubt it).

    2) My mom and dad (79 years old) could use a little help and I’ll be the one to help them. Before that, I wanted take a practice run through the AOL obstacle course. Done.

    3) When I see people, companies, governments, etc. harming people, animals, the environment, etc., it pisses me off. Part because of the “harmers” and part because of the bystanders, who don’t lift a finger to help anyone but themselves. I try to be the opposite of that guy. Yes, what I do is usually small, maybe even considered insignificant by some and something to make fun of by others. I do it anyway. Many little things done by many people adds up to changing the world. I know we can do it (we are doing it) if we all just do little things (or big things) for others (not ourselves). It’s what matters to me in life. Knowing I tried my best, did as little harm as possible, as much good as possible, tried to leave the world better than I found it, etc. Maybe this post will be one of those little things I do, maybe it will help someone avoid AOL or help them escape it. Maybe it will inspire someone in some way to do some other little thing. Maybe it will help shame AOL into not being such a shithead company. Lot of possibilities. It’s just another of my little pebbles tossed into the pond.

    There you have it!

    Cheers,
    Chris

    PS: I’ll leave you with two poems and a quote:

    Original version:

    First They Came…

    When the Nazis came for the communists,
    I remained silent;
    I was not a communist.

    When they locked up the social democrats,
    I remained silent;
    I was not a social democrat.

    When they came for the trade unionists,
    I did not speak out;
    I was not a trade unionist.

    When they came for the Jews,
    I remained silent;
    I was not a Jew.

    When they came for me,
    there was no one left to speak out.

    Modern version
    (from American punk rock band NOFX):

    First they put away the dealers,
    keep our kids safe and off the street.
    Then they put away the prostitutes,
    keep married men cloistered at home.
    Then they shooed away the bums,
    then they beat and bashed the queers,
    turned away asylum-seekers,
    fed us suspicions and fears.
    We didn’t raise our voice,
    we didn’t make a fuss.
    It’s funny there was no one left to notice
    when they came for us.

    Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:

    Cowardice asks the question – is it safe? Vanity asks the question – is it popular? Expediency asks the question – is it political? But conscience asks the question – is it right? There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, popular, or political; but because it is right.

  4. Idiot! AOL has had several Addressbook sync programs… genius. They had addressbook sync back when Palm Pilots were still as big as a small book. Then they partnered with Plaxo which still works with your AOL account and now today 2008… there is yet, another way http://aolsync.aol.com/main.do brought to you by AOL – dumbass! Retention is important for anyone, but now – AOL is free. You have to pay $20 bucks a month for yahoo plus, to get yahoo email into pop/imap for outlook – but again, AOL it comes with your free account, webmail, and instant messenger.. all with one username and with outlook features. You have endless choices… and all free. You can have it separate without the AOL client or with. The choice is yours. Clearly this guy is a moron and still is bitter from his DOS AOL days with AOL’s PCAO version…. Plaxo can sync everything too, but has also caused thousands of duplicates, but then requires you to pay to remove them. AOL RULES! Its free, no credit card required anymore, FREE FREE FREE! AOL was clearly the training wheels of the internet for this guy, and millions of others… and you people have give no credit to that… It made what was nearly impossible for most people, possible. Show some respect, jackasses! Now, did I mention… it’s FREE?!

  5. Hi Gary,

    Your comment showed up in my spam cue but I approved it because, despite your angry, childish style and 3rd-grade English skills, you did provide a potentially useful link for any poor souls who want to stick with and sync with AOL (BTW, syncing is totally different then exporting your address book, which is what this article is about).

    Couple of other comments/questions:

    Question:
    Are you calling AOL’s professional tech support an idiot or me? Just wondering. Because if my not knowing more than AOL’s trained support staff makes me an idiot, then I’m guilty as charged.

    Comment:
    With a comment like yours, I can see why you hide behind a fake/spam email address like garysspambank@yahoo.com.

    Cheers,
    Chris

    PS: If you would have read my December 3, 2008 at 10:11 am comment you could have saved yourself from getting so worked up: https://chrisco.wordpress.com/2008/11/28/how-to-export-your-aol-address-book/#comment-955

  6. I think I found out one of the reasons Gary is so angry (at himself): He is on AOL: IP: 64.236.128.12: Host: h-64-236-128-12.nat.aol.com

  7. Here’s how i exported the emails.

    1. login to webmail.aol.com
    2. print All Contacts to a pdf file
    3. open the pdf and Save As a text file (pdf.txt)
    4. use Grep to extract lines with email addresses
    ex. grep “@” pdf.txt > justEmails.txt

    note: my contact list only had email addresses (no names, etc) which made this easier.

  8. Google to Shed AOL Stake; Demands Either Sale or Spin Off

    Mountain View, Calif. — More than three years after paying $1 billion for a 5% stake in AOL, Mountain View-based Google now wants to recoup what’s left of its money. During a conference call on Wednesday, Time Warner executives revealed that Google plans to exercise its “demand registration rights,” which would force parent Time Warner either to buy back AOL’s stake or spin off the unit into a public company. “After careful consideration, we made the decision that we needed to exercise our rights now so we could be in a position to sell our interest when the timing made sense for us,” Google said in a statement. Time Warner said that it is “evaluating its options.” The investment has proven to be a big money-loser for Google. The company last month wrote off $726 million to compensate for a significant loss in AOL’s value, which has dropped by about 70% since the investment.

  9. simple and free way of exporting your aol address book:

    I’ve spent nearly 4 hours trying to figure out some way to trasfer contacts from aol to outlook but aol simply doesn’t give u this option!!!!!
    I suggest this was made to discourage people from switching from Aol proprietary system which became just a bunch of crapware.

    People mentioned these solutions online:

    1) aol communicator – which how I found out was discontinued and i wasn’t able to find it anywhere online.
    2) aolsync outlook plugin – simply didn’t work for me.:( Throws an error when I tried to sync. Later someone mentioned that this service no longer works two-ways. – it only sync outlook contacts into aol. Gee – i wonder why?
    3) aoleave.com – discontinued. mentions aol 6.0 software on that website 😦
    4) epreserver.com – has a software that transfers everything from aol account – though it’s like 25 bucks which i had absolutely no intention to pay.

    And finally – HERE IS HOW TO BACK UP YOUR AOL ADDRESS BOOK FOR FREE! :))

    1) Go to Plaxo.com website and sign up – it’s free.

    plaxo.com – it’s sort of universal online address book and social networking site. I’ve never heard of it before but I think I’ll definitely use it in the future cuz it proved to be the only simple and FREE way of transferring aol contacts:)

    2) During the sign up process it’ll ask you to add contacts from various services like gmail or aim/aol. – so – just enter your aol credentials.

    It might ask u if u would like to send invitation to the people in ur address book – just click on skip when that happens.

    3) When u pass setup process – click on “More” and than select “Address book”. At this point you should see all aol contacts over there. (luv u plaxo:)

    4)Scroll down to the veryy bottom of the page and click on “+ Add sync points”. “Sync wizard” window will popup.

    5) click on the option that says export address book (alternatively plaxo offers plugin for automatic sync with ms outlook:) – and it’s free)

    6)From the drop down list u can either select .csv or .ldif or .vcf format. I’ve just selected .csv because i was transferring the address book into MS outlook.

    That’s it – just save that .csv file on ur desktop and import it into your program of choice.

    Mission accomplished.

    P.S> plaxo.com kick’s ass. I was so happy to find it cuz otherwise – I’d have to manually transfer 450 contacts.

  10. “AOL Ad Revenues Collapse (TWX)”
    By Henry Blodget
    2009-04-29
    Silicon Alley Insider

    http://www.businessinsider.com/henry-blodget-aol-ad-revenues-collapse-2009-4

    EXCERPT:

    AOL ad revenue dropped a startling 20% in Q1. For the first time, cost cuts did not keep up with revenue declines, so EBITDA also plunged, to $255 million. [T]he ad revenue collapse illustrates why President/COO Randy Falco and Ron Grant got the boot: Because their third-party ad network strategy was a disaster. New boss, Tim Armstrong, arrives at a good time.

  11. “You’ve Got Blackmail: The AOL Account That Wouldn’t Die”
    By Jason Zweig
    2009-07-02
    Wall Street Journal

    http://blogs.wsj.com/wallet/2009/07/02/youve-got-blackmail-the-aol-account-that-wouldnt-die/

    EXCERPT:

    About a month ago, we started getting bizarre phone calls from a collections agency in India. They called five times, “concerning unpaid charges of $103.60.”

    When I asked what I was being charged for, I was told it was four months’ worth of something called “upgraded service” for AOL in late 2008.

    I pointed out that we had never requested or agreed to any upgrade, nor used any AOL service other than email.

    Caller No. 4 informed me that the upgrade was “automatic.”

    [it goes on — you have to read it for yourself]

    My advice: If AOL comes after you, then go after AOL.

    File a fraud alert with Equifax:
    https://www.annualcreditreport.com/cra/helpfaq#fraudalert

  12. Hello everyone,

    There is a VERY SIMPLE way to export your AOL contacts. Just log on to the AOL web mail (go to http://www.aol.com, log in, then go to your mail). In the Web Mail, there is a Tools Menu. It only has two options: Import and Export. The Export supports CSV, TXT, or LDIF. It can’t get any easier than that (unless they actually added it to the AOL program itself). Forget Plaxo!

    Enjoy! Chuck

  13. great. it’s a new thing for aol. They didn’t have export option 1 yr ago. as well as pop3 access and email forwarding.
    Right now they more like normal email service.

    1. Glad to hear that AOL has reduced it’s jackassery. Thanks for sharing, Chuck. As Andy stated, this is a relatively new feature. It did not exist when I wrote the article (so hold the smugness). I will put another update at the top (like I did when Google added their new feature).

      Cheers, Chris

Comments are closed.