AOL Inc. (NYSE: AOL, previously known as America Online, written as AOL and stylized as "Aol." but commonly pronounced as an initialism) is an American global brand company that develops, grows, and invests in brands and web sites. The Company’s business spans online content, products and services, which it offers to consumers, publishers and advertisers. Founded in 1983 as Control Video Corporation, AOL has franchised its services to companies in several nations around the world or set up international versions of its services. AOL is headquartered at 770 Broadway in New York, but has many offices throughout cities in North America, such as Atlanta, Baltimore, Beverly Hills, Birmingham, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Dublin, Dulles, Lancaster, Nashville, Palo Alto, San Francisco, Toronto and Washington, D.C. Its foreign offices include Bangalore, Dreieich, Dublin, London and Tel Aviv. As of October 2012, it serves 2.9 million paid and free domestic (US) subscribers.
AOL is best known for its online software suite, also called AOL, that allowed customers to access the world's largest "walled garden" online community and eventually reach out to the Internet as a whole. At its prime, AOL's membership was over 30 million members worldwide, most of whom accessed the AOL service through the AOL software suite. AOL was ranked fourth (behind the Web, email, and graphic user interfaces) in a 2007 USA TODAY retrospective on the 25 events that shaped the first 25 years of the Internet and was named to the ".com 25" by a panel of Silicon Valley influencers on the occasion of the same anniversary.
In 2000, AOL and Time Warner merged under the name AOL Time Warner. The merger was not fruitful and on May 28, 2009, Time Warner announced that it would spin off AOL into a separate public company. The spinoff occurred on December 9, 2009, ending the eight-year relationship between the two companies.
Since then, AOL has focused on reinventing itself as a brand company under the guidance of CEO Tim Armstrong, creating and acquiring a range of content properties. Major acquisitions include the purchase of technology news blog TechCrunch in September 2010, and on February 7, 2011, the purchase of The Huffington Post. Other AOL brands include Moviefone, Engadget, Patch, Stylelist, MapQuest, Cambio and about.me.
In April 2012, AOL took several steps to expand its ability to generate revenue through online video advertising. On April 16, 2012, AOL announced that it would offer gross rating point (GRP) guarantee for online video, guaranteeing audience delivery for online video advertising campaigns bought across its properties. From April 19 through May 2, AOL, Google, Hulu, Microsoft, Vevo and Yahoo cohosted the Digital Content NewFronts (DCNF), a two-week event held to showcase the participating sites’ digital video offerings. The Digital Content NewFronts were conducted before the traditional television upfronts, where television channels present their upcoming programming to advertisers, in hopes of getting marketers to spend more advertising money in the digital space. On April 24, at AOL’s NewFront presentation, the company introduced the AOL On Network, a curated hub for AOL’s video offerings, along with several original video program series.
On April 16, 2012, the Huffington Post won its first Pulitzer Prize, becoming the first online-only daily news website to do so. The prize for National Reporting was awarded to reporter David Wood for his 10-part series, "Beyond the Battlefield," exploring the lives of veterans who were severely injured while serving in Afghanistan and Iraq. On April 9, 2012, AOL announced plans to sell and license patents to Microsoft for $1.056 billion. The announcement of the deal caused AOL shares to rise 36 percent on the morning of the announcement. On June 14, 2012, AOL won a proxy fight with activist investor Starboard Value when a majority of shareholders voted to reelect all eight of AOL’s current board members, rather than take on any of the candidates proposed by Starboard Value.