Special Notice to sufferers (oops! surfers) of
AOL /America OnLine
November 2002
most recently updated: 4 November 2005

We're plagued almost every day by the aggravations caused by AOL's machinations and hijinks. AOL "mirrors" our big websites (KitCar.com, CobraCountry.com, MustangCountry.com and StreetRodCountry.com) on their mainframe computers. This means that if you're reading this (or any other page on our sites), you may not be on our website; depending in large part upon where you're physically located, you're probably on an AOL "copy" of our site.

This is common practice at AOL for heavily-trafficked, popular websites such as ours. One immediate problem with this practice is, when we implement changes on the site (including the daily additions and changes on "For Sale by Owner" ads, etc.), those changes are not reflected promptly on AOL's clone site. Days or weeks will pass before AOL customers are able to see the latest entries on our "For Sale by Owner" pages. By the time you see them, they may already have been sold. Bummer, courtesy of AOL. And we regularly get phone calls from advertisers who want to know how it is that they're getting responses to their ad, but it isn't even showing up on our site; it invariably turns out that that they're on AOL: their ad has been up and running for 1 or 2 weeks, but not on AOL's obsolete version of that page.

This is the precise reason why industry insiders will gently advise you "If you're using AOL's browser, you're not 'on the Internet'... instead, you're on an AOL mainframe computer that simulates the Internet experience."

Yet another aggravation for us is that we cannot track any of the traffic that AOL diverts to its counterfeit copy of our site, and AOL ignores our requests for those numbers. This is akin to a magazine or newspaper publisher who is not permitted to ascertain what their own circulation is. Yet another related hazard is liability: let's say that an inaccurate or (heaven forbid!) defamatory news item is posted on one of our sites. We can of course delete it promptly from our own site, but (in the event that AOL has already mirrored that faux pas), we can do nothing to delete it from AOL's server... and AOL won't even provide us with a "hot line" for such emergencies.

If all of the aboveisn't bad enough, in addition AOL automatically "processes" every image that it copies to its servers. The result for you is, AOL's "processing" results in a wretched, degraded rendition of our original image. This is true of every website "mirrored" on AOL's servers, not just our sites. The bottom line is, if you're accessing our sites via AOL--instead of being directly connected to the Internet via an Internet Service Provider (ISP)--the odds are that AOL is routing you to the copy of our site on AOL's own server; if so, then you're not able to see and appreciate the high-quality photographic images that are there for you on our sites or any other "mirrored" site. We devote a lot of extra time, trouble and expense to be able to present you with the best possible images, only to have AOL torpedo all of those efforts.

Update 1: in October 2000 we installed special "expiration code" on each page that worked to thwart AOL's caching scheme;

Update 2: in early March 2004 it became painfully apparent that AOL has recently implemented steps to ignore all of the "expiration date" code that we installed on each of our pages in October 2000, and is once again covertly redirecting AOL Browser users to out-of-date versions of our pages.

Here's a tip that'll enable you to disable AOL's graphics-demolition scheme:

AOL does not caution you that your AOL Browser is factory pre-set to detour you to an out-of-date copy of the site you intend to visit and that you keyboarded in, nor are you cautioned that the images they copy from those Web sites are purposely degraded in quality before AOL transmits them to you.

Caching/"mirroring" those big sites might save AOL a vast amount of bandwidth, but deprives you of what you should be seeing on the Web sites you visit... AOL turns 24-bit JPEGs into 8-bit retrogressive GIFs (!!!!!) which AOL drastically compresses and ruins.

This results in wretched banding and artifacting. Text included in the graphics is often unreadable. AOL's retrogressive GIFs begin as a blurry mess before resolving to a focused mess. Many visitors click off before the image has a chance to resolve, saving AOL additional bandwidth. ... AOL tech support does not reveal to you this reprocessing when you call to complain about the terrible image quality you're getting. Ironically, transmogrifying a JPEG into a GIF not only degrades the image, but it doesn't even guarantee a smaller filesize.

How you (as an AOL subscriber) can permanently turn this calculated annoyance off: The steps and names are different in each version of the AOL browser, but based on this you should be able to work your way through:

  1. Click "My AOL" or "Member Preferences"
  2. Click "Set Up Now"
  3. Click "Preference Guide"
  4. Click "Set Up Now"
  5. Click "The Web" or "AOL Internet Properties"
  6. Click "Web Graphics"
  7. Click to remove the check from "Use Compressed Graphics" .... (In some versions click to put a check by "Use Uncompressed Graphics")
  8. Click "Save" or "Apply"

Better yet, consider a good regional or national ISP (such as mindspring.com, earthlink.com, netcom.com, psn.net, et al.), or a good local ISP... or a cable provider such as Time-Warner's "Road Runner."


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