Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

AOL's Improvements Leave Room for Name Recognition

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

AOL's Improvements Leave Room for Name Recognition

Article excerpt

Your America Online screen name should say a lot about you.

Unfortunately, what it says all too frequently is, "Somebody else already got all the good screen names."

Ideally, the online handle you choose as your main -- or "master" -- screen name will be a close approximation of your real-world name. Or it could reflect your interests, occupation or philosophy.

But it rarely works that way.

With more than 18 million customers competing for screen names, you'll be lucky to get something that makes sense.

Choosing my screen name was a cinch -- "EdStansel" was available, and came in one letter short of AOL's 10-character limit.

Most people, however, aren't so lucky. Customers with more common surnames, such as Smith, often are forced to tack on random numbers to come up with a unique screen name. And those whose names exceed the 10-character cap often must resort to cryptic abbreviations. The result can be an impossible-to-remember e-mail address.

That's why a lot of folks will be glad to hear that AOL has bumped its screen name maximum up to 16 characters.

The longer screen names are a feature of the soon-to-be-released AOL 5.0 software, available now for Windows users in a "beta," or test, version at Keyword: Beta.

AOL isn't advertising the fact, but if you're using the current version of the software, AOL 4.0, you can create 16-character names now by going to Keyword: Names.

More good news regarding screen names: AOL 5.0 will allow up to seven per account. AOL 4.0 permits only five screen names, which is a problem for growing families whose children are coming of Internet age.

Other new features in AOL 5.0 include:

"My Calendar," a personal calendar accessible from the revamped Welcome screen that helps users keep track of appointments, birthdays, anniversaries, concerts and other events. …

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