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20-year journey: AOL to Yahoo to Gmail--to Facebook?

Strolling around AOL's campus last week was strangely moving. The memories came flooding back: sending my first email so many years ago in AOL's portal, chatting over instant messages with a girl I coveted in college, getting to know one of my now-best friends via our AOL email addresses despite having never met face to face.

AOL gave me these memories, and in the early 1990s that awful screeching dial-up noise was a rather familiar -- and often annoying, to those around me  -- presence in my life. I distinctly remember one of my college roommates saying, "What are you constantly doing on that AOL thing? Who are you talking to?" I told him -- I am not making this up -- that one day we will do everything this way: buy things, watch things, read things.

A decade later I met my wife online.

Like many, I no longer use my AOL email address. By the time I corresponded online with my future wife, I was using Yahoo email. Now I'm on Gmail. The Internet evolves, and its users slide along with it, often shaping it more than it shapes them. Will I soon abandon Gmail and simply use Facebook to connect with people? Seems likely at this point. Billions and billions of dollars are at stake in what happens.

AOL is waving its arms around saying, "We're still here!" It is trying to get me back with its strategy of creating oodles of content. I must admit I'm a loyal reader of its gadget site, Engadget, which is well-written and -reported and mildly addicting. I use Moviefone occasionally to find movie times. But is AOL a part of my daily life like it once was way back when? Not even close.

That makes me a little sad.

We're collecting your stories and memories about using AOL back in the day--as well as what you think of its current offerings and identity. Tell us on the comment boards below.

By Michael S. Rosenwald  | May 24, 2010; 1:51 PM ET
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