AOL has been through an impossible number of iterations over the past two decades, each one with gradually less fanfare than the previous installment. The latest, AOL Desktop 9.6 manages to make some well-timed improvements over its predecessor, 9.5, but does it make utilizing the software worthwhile? Given AOL's track record, you likely already know the answer.
The first thing to take into account is how much resources running the program take up. AOL has a long history of putting a drain on systems, especially in the late 90's. However, AOL 9.6 is a lighter load than its predecessor, taking up somewhere between one half and three quarters the amount of memory that 9.5 took up on the PC used to test.
AOL is designed to be a one-stop show for PC users, giving them the ability to check their e-mail, balance finances
, listen to music
, play games
and just about everything else you can imagine. The problem with trying to be a jack of all trades is that you usually don't excel at anything. The age of the chat room has long since been over and you're likely to see the user made chats cluttered up with people looking for adult topics.
The biggest problem you'll find with using AOL is that there really doesn't appear to be any reason to use it anymore. Once browsers and internet users grew up along with technology, AOL fell to the wayside. There are plenty of useful things to be found here, though. The browser is equipped with a pop-up blocker which has become standard over the past few years, a 'find similar pages' function to help you with searches and built-in functionality like Map Quest
When it comes down to it, however, there's nothing that you can't do in a browser with your favorite toolbar that you can do with AOL. If you're feeling a bit nostalgic AOL has been free for a few years, so there's nothing wrong with downloading it and seeing if you enjoy it. But at the end of the day there's really no reason to still be using AOL.