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.
(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)
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- You can’t cancel online (you have to call). Why? Same.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.