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AOL executive expounds on the wired life

PC World

(IDG) -- What's your clue you've been spending too much time on AOL? "You had your name legally changed from Bob to Bob12756." At least, according to a David Letterman Top Ten list offered by an America Online executive at Internet World Fall 2000 here.

"The sad part is, that list sounds like my life," joked Barry Schuler, president of AOL's interactive services group. He began his keynote address here at Internet World with a Top Ten list lifted from David Letterman.

The rest of Schuler's talk was a pep rally on the Internet's future and its potential growth. Some attendees, representing the dot-com sector hit recently by layoffs and closings, listened skeptically.

"If you believe everything Barry Schuler just said, you have been spending too much time on AOL," said one keynote attendee.

Schuler, self-described as the "guy who turned the Internet into Happy Meals," doesn't foresee an Internet growth slowdown. Quite the contrary, he added: "Forget about the doom and gloom and buckle your seatbelt, because the next five years is going to be way, way more interesting," he says.

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AOL expects Net to flourish

Over the next half-decade, the Internet will be fused inside televisions, telephones, stereos, and PCs, Schuler says. Unleashing the Internet beyond the PC will create a groundswell of new markets that will dwarf previous dot-com growth. Schuler says 5 million people have joined AOL in the past year, a sure sign that the Internet is far from a "fad like CB radios."

Numbers are up for AOL across the board, Schuler says. About 2 million AOL members are online at any given time. A total of 7.5 billion Web addresses are served every day through AOL, and 56 percent of its members have made an online purchase in the past six months.

"What's going to happen? Consumers are going to happen," he says. But he also cautioned dot-com companies that answer to investors and not customers: "Watch out how you treat consumers." Privacy, safety, and security are key, but equally important are consumer services that are easy to use and relevant to consumers, Schuler said.

In the end, "the new economy ain't no different than the old economy," he said. "You need to design products that provide real convenience and are easy to use."

Need anyone ask Schuler who will deliver these relevant services? He says AOL will be central to supporting this always-on lifestyle. For example, he points to growing list of devices running AOL, such as AOLTV and the AOL Internet appliance made by Gateway. The company is also expanding wireless partnerships with companies such as RIM and Sprint, and it is nearing consummation of its merger with media, music, and movie Goliath Time Warner.

Top ten signs you're spending too much time on AOL

10. You've named your three kids A, O, and L.

9. Your buddy list is up to 350,000.

8. You've developed an enormous crush on that "You've Got Mail" guy.

7. You've wasted two and a half years of your life just waiting for new art to be installed.

6. Let's just say you've gotten incredibly good at typing with one hand.

5. You met, married, and divorced your wife without ever having laid eyes on her.

4. Teri Hatcher comes to your house and tells you to stop downloading her damn photo.

3. You missed your son's graduation because bowling legend Earl Anthony was hosting a live chat.

2. You actually read those "Community Updates" from Steve Case.

1. You had your name legally changed from Bob to Bob12756.

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