Internet for Beginners/ISP


QUESTION: Since 1995 and before I've used AOL as my ISP. Most of its functions are garbage and haven't really improved over time. However I like how tangible it feels and am worried that any other ISPs will be web-based. Is there any ISP you could recommend? I am tired of all the e-mail troubles AOL users have always had to deal with, and security issues.

ANSWER: Hi James - you've been a real trooper!

Let's define a few things from your message - an ISP is your Internet Service Provider, that which allows you to establish a connection to the "web".  AOL provides this connection - but they also provide a graphical "interface" to the web, taking the form of web-based email, news, contacts, etc.  This is a distinct and separate function from providing access to the web.

That said, most interfaces will be "web-based".  Many ISP's have similar interfaces - Comcast, for example provides a connection to the web (ISP) as well as a home page from which you can access email, news, etc.  Your ISP has a vested interest in keeping you on their "web" property, so they can serve you ads to generate more revenue.

I'd recommend you find something you can feel comfortable with by browsing your alternatives based on your location - you may have more than a few options for an ISP - Comcast, ATT, your "local" cable or phone provider, etc.

Visit their home page and see if that experience is what you're looking for before changing providers.  Also, note that you could use Comcast for example, as your ISP - but make AOL (or Google, Yahoo, etc.,) your browsers "home page" so you're not tied to your ISP's interface.  Once you're connected to the web, you can choose ANY - or NONE of their offerings.

I personally use Comcast for my connection, and use plain old as my home.  I use bookmarks for webmail and news so I'm not dependent on what Comcast or Yahoo or AOL think is important to me.

I hope this helps - have a great day.


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Well we don't get internet through AOL. I think we get it through the cable company so we haven't paid AOL for internet for a long time. I just like the graphic interface. I hate the graphic and control limitations of webpages as well as long waiting times just to load pages. I like things to be the same each and every time I load them up. I want an actual software interface on my computer. Not just something I access through a browser. I want actual software.

That's a tough one, James.

Let me try and address your issues - as far as loading speed, each website can vary greatly depending on page content, web traffic, and server conditions - so you might have a great experience now, and a not so great experience in 20 minutes.  That's not really something you or your software can control - however the faster YOUR connection to the internet, the less impact these things might have on you.

As web browsers ARE actual software, and are designed expressly for accessing web sites - I can't really recommend one over the other for delivering a uniform experience.  AOL merely provides a "window" into which the "panes" are filled by the source websites.  The information you consume is the same, but AOL may display it in an easier to digest format.

Another way to approach this might be from an operating system perspective.  While I do not own nor have much experience with the new Window 8 OS, I do know it allows web "widgets" that can be dragged around or otherwise manipulated to display in a particular order on your computer screen.  You might want to ask someone more familiar with it to see if that might work for you.  Barring that, I'm not aware of any off the shelf software that will serve up web info in a graphical fashion.

I wish I could be of more help -


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Ken Ivey


If you are new to the Internet you may be anxious to give it the gas; or terrified to take your foot from the brake! Either way, with over 20 years on what is now called the information highway, I can steer you in the right direction. Are you ready? Let's hit the road!


I have over 20 years of practical experience with web-related issues, and some military computer training. I've worked for a computer manufacturer, and own a small technology company specializing in web-design, hosting, and internet media production. I am the webmaster of several sites, and e-newsletter editor for Rotary District 6760 which is comprised of 65 clubs throughout middle Tennessee.

I'd like to say a diploma from a revered educational facility hangs on my wall, and perhaps someday it will. In reality, everything I know has been self-taught, much of it done so in the hallowed halls of that venerable institution called "The School of Hard Knocks".

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