First, AOL decided to give away their basic membership services free to broadband users (press release here). Then they announced a plan to offer 5GB of online storage free to all comers (press release here). It turns out they were just getting started.
AOL today launched a new free anti-virus program — called Active Virus Shield — for all online users at no cost. Active Virus Shield is powered by Kaspersky Lab, one of the largest Internet security solutions providers in the world, and offers advanced detection technology to stop viruses, spyware, malware and Trojans before they attack, as well as real-time scanning of files and email. The software automatically updates every hour, offering an easy and convenient way for consumers to protect themselves from the thousands of new Internet threats created each month.
Active Virus Shield can be downloaded at www.activevirusshield.com
Active Virus Shield is free of charge, and there is no obligation or AOL membership required to use it. Active Virus Shield works with Windows XP (home & Professional), NT, 2000, ME, & 98, Internet Explorer 5.5 and above, and requires about 50MB of spare disk space.
This seems to be a subset of the “Total Care” package that AOL was rumored to be working on and the description makes it out to be a fairly conventional antivirus offering, presumably one of Kaspersky’s standard products. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of Windows Live OneCare, but it gets a user a lot of the way there and it’s free which undercuts even Microsoft’s lowball OneCare pricing and has a cachet all its own:
“Antivirus protection is too important to make people have to pay for it,” an AOL representative told CNET News.com in an e-mail interview.
Indeed, but wait, there’s more! Today, it was announced that AOL To Offer Personalized Email Domains for Free to All Web Users:
AOL today announced that, starting in September, it will make personalized email domains available for free to all Web users. AOL is the first company to offer this service, which will be called AOL(R) My eAddress, at no charge.
With AOL My eAddress, anyone can set up and register a completely customized email address using .COM or .NET domains, and add up to 100 additional identities onto their personal domain, all at no charge. For example, someone could choose a domain that family, friends, teams, social organizations and others could use, for example email@example.com,” and other members within that group could have their own email identity using that domain. Or, Individuals can also choose to set up a new personalized address with the popular and widely-used AOL.com domain, at no charge.
Consumers will be able to use their personalized My eAddress domain as an email address, as their AIM(R) address to send and receive instant messages and access their Buddy List(R) feature, to access features across the AOL network, and, coming soon, as the address of their own personal Web page on the free AIM(R) Pages social networking service.
– Setup, registration and the use of a My eAddress email domain and identity is all free (one domain per user), as is the ability to invite other people to join their personalized domain. Each account holder can add up to 100 additional personal email identities associated with their domain, all managed through an easy Web-based control panel.
At first blush it appears to be the equivalent of Windows Live Custom Domains, but it has a critical difference. With Custom Domains you show up with your already registered domain name and Microsoft gives you email. With My eAddress, it appears that AOL is going to be registering and renewing the domains for their users for free much like Microsoft does with Office Live Basics. I guess domain registration is now the new loss leader in the consumer space as well.
Update 8/10: Kevin Kelleher at The Street.com thinks that AOL’s free domain offer is one of the reasons that domain registrar GoDaddy canceled its IPO.