Free Alternatives to AOL

I’m often asked if there are other online services to use besides AOL, but still have the same ease of use. To help summarize my response, I’ve put together a small list of alternative services which are free that are similar or better than the AOL equivalent.

AOL Service Alternative Services
Instant Messaging Yahoo Messenger, Gtalk, Pidgin, Trillian
Chat Rooms Yahoo Chat, IRC, Pidgin
E-Mail Mozilla Thunderbird, Gmail, Yahoo, Live (MSN)
Web Browsing Mozilla Firefox, Opera, Flock, Internet Explorer 7
Message Boards Topix, Yahoo Message Boards, Independent Forums*
Profiles MySpace, Facebook, Plaxo, LinkedIn, Bebo, Friendster, Blogger
Custom Toolbar Mozilla Firefox Toolbar, Aqua Dock, Windows Quick Launch
Video YouTube, Joost, Metacafe, Yahoo Video
Anti-Virus Avira, AVG, Avast!, ClamAV
Firewall Comodo Firewall, Zone Alarm, Windows Firewall
Pictures Flickr, Webshots, Photobucket, Slide
Address Book Plaxo, Mozilla Thunderbird, Microsoft Outlook
Favorite Places, Mozilla Firefox
Proxy/Anonymity Tor, Free Proxies**
Search Google
Web Acceleration Google Web Accelerator
Blogging/Journals WordPress, Blogger, LiveJournal, Vox
Keywords OpenDNS***
Anti-Phishing OpenDNS, Microsoft IE7, Mozilla Firefox
Finance Google Finance, Yahoo Finance, MSN Money
Bill Pay, Personal Finance Management Mint, Pocketbook
RSS Feed Services Google Reader, MyYahoo, Bloglines, NewsGator
Instant Messaging Pidgin, Meebo, Gtalk, Yahoo Messenger

* Independent Forums — There are thousands of online discussion Web sites available that talk about what you want to talk about. Just do a Google search for “<subject> forums.” Example: “Boating Forums.”
** Free Proxies — There are thousands of free proxy addresses out there that conceal your online identity. Just Google for “Free Proxies” to get started.
*** Open DNS — OpenDNS allows you to configure specific shortcuts which function like AOL Keywords. For example, “yahoo” to make you go directly to “” See?

There are many more alternatives, including software alternatives. The purpose of this is to help liberate users so they can make educated choices as to their online experience. If you know of more alternatives that are worthy of being added to this list, please leave a comment.Feel free to share this page with your friends and family; as it will help all of you get the most out of your online experience!


(Disclaimer: “AOL,” “AIM,” and any additional “AOL” brands are trademarks belonging to AOL LLC. This Web site is not affiliated with AOL. To learn more about AOL’s services, visit

  • Ed

    OpenDNS is great. Unfortunately my ISP won’t allow me to use my own DNS settings unless I switch to a subscription plan that will give me my own IP address.

  • Joe


    You shouldn’t have to talk to your ISP to do it. You can manually override the DNS servers in your router. I briefly touched on how to do that a while back when I talked about some of the things you didn’t know your wireless router can do.

    In addition, setting the DNS server locally to OpenDNS’s will work, too.


  • Junkyard Willie

    Nobody will ever corner the market like AOL used to, because few people are thinking about grandma that just got her first eMachine laptop for Christmas. Sure, they try, but can you really imagine any company going to the lengths to fleece first-time computer users like we used to at AOL?

    Although I do have to have hand it to ISP’s such as Comcast and Time Warner (hey what a coincidence) whose entire business models are based on overselling “unlimited” access to people who they know aren’t going to use it. At least AOL had to print the discs, the ISP’s are selling make-believe concepts.

  • Joe

    Overselling is the nature of the Internet though. Most customers (sans geeks) rarely understand the difference between Megabits and Megabytes or any scientific method of measuring service quality or quantity on the Internet.

    My host, Dreamhost, has a notorious reputation for Overselling; while this does have its drawbacks, the benefit is people don’t get overages when their site makes it on Digg. It’s Internet Socialism at it’s best, blended with capitalism.

    What I do disagree with, is limiting users who do maximize their offer “benefits,” like if you actually do download 20Mb on your connection non-stop… you shouldn’t have to be penalized further because some consultant wanted to have their business model based on overselling.

    I think it’s possible that Yahoo could corner yesterday’s AOL market. AOL is getting away from the integrated all-in-one Web experience (pardon the cliche`). AOL’s access business better watch out for what Yahoo and Microsoft… I can totally envision Microsoft blending Yahoo features into their MSN software and banking on the novice AOLer market.