The AOL List: Crash and Burn

David Cassel (
Tue, 18 Feb 1997 01:50:55 -0800 (PST)

			C r a s h   a n d   B u r n


Hackers overloaded the Guide Pager, which told complaining users "Please
try again later". Each and every New Member Lounge was hit with scrollers
-- sometimes five at a time -- avoiding AOL's Guides by skipping from
account to account.

That was 1995.  "Dr. Squid" had summoned at least 70 screen names to
protest a change in AOL's policy for guest accounts, and they rampaged for
hours (  (The next day
AOL's chat rooms were closed for repairs; AOL claimed this was unrelated
to the event).

The chaos was reborn, one source told the AOL List -- on a web page
created by "Dextrin" January 14.  "In exactly 1 month we will take back
what is ours..." his page proclaimed.  "We will reek havick on AOL...we
will join together to relcaim AOL."  It urged readers to cluster in a
private room named Revolt.  They would invade chat rooms en masse to nudge
users into cancelling their accounts--thus freeing up phone lines for
themselves.  "AOL will regret the day they initiated the unlimeted plan,"
the page predicted.  "To us AOL is free and we do not need an unlimted
plan. It must be destroyed." 

Coverage of their threats dripped from the AOL List into national venues,
including C|Net, the New York Post, and Wired News.  By Friday over 300
had gathered in private rooms named "Revolt" (hours before the scheduled
starting time).  With names like RVOLT2NITE and CAT KILL 123, they circled
in anticipation. 

But there were already signs of dissension. 

	"Just fuck the riot."
	"AOL Already knnows about this."
	"You guys are going to get caught."

One of Dextrin's original readers had argued that organized rebellion
would just bring their activities unwanted attention.  "If we were quiet
and just traded our warez...and didn't bother the members...and didn't get
ourselves noticed...AOL would not care that WE were here..."  They pointed
to an incident where hackers had stormed the Virtual Leaders Academy--an
internal, staff-only room for AOL's remote staffers.  "They rioted in
there and pissed the shit out of the guides...  Now they all run bots
called Catwatch."  The assault's secrecy was questioned, too.  "Let's face
it," one spectator noted in a revolt room, "all the info was put up on a
bulletin board in an AOL Employee area.  Why didn't you just call Steve
Case and leave it on his voice mail?"

Intent on troublemaking, the throng ignored them.  13 private rooms
quickly filled with rioters testing their tools.  A six-line graphic
appeared on the screen, reading "The Lamerz Are Comming!! And Steve Case
is Their Leader".  Then, an ascii-character drawing of a thumb... 

It was a folk protest, a gathering of malcontents moving through software
to voice their angst, their anger, their dissatisfaction. 

	MaD HaTt0R:	 @[]@[]@[]@[] RevolT KillA {S IM} @[]@[]@[]@[]
	MaD HaTt0R:	 @[]@[]@[]@[] RevolT KillA {S IM} @[]@[]@[]@[]

	HaVeNmStR:	^v^-^ - - The EXoRCiST Lamer Detector - -^-^v^
	HaVeNmStR:	^v^-^ - - This Room is 99% Lamers - -^-^v^
	HaVeNmStR:	^v^-^ - - And 1%  HaVeNmStR - -^-^v^

	ReEVolT69:	**- ------{ Revolt 97 By BiG Sherm }------ -**
	ReEVolT69:	**- ------{ Die All You Fuckers Die }------ -**
	ReEVolT69:	**- ------{ Revolt 97 By BiG Sherm }------ -**

Conversation got frenetic.



ReVxxOLt:	THE TIME HAS COME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.......GO TO LOBByS NOW

ReVxxOLt scrolled his message again and again...

	"THE TIME HAS COME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.......GO TO LOBByS NOW"

Unsuspecting users signed on to a Welcome screen plugging Valentine's
Day@AOL. ("K-I-S-S-I-N-G:  Goofy, mushy, steamy, dreamy...")  "KISS KISS
TO ALL YOU VALENTINE VIXENS" one user typed in the chat rooms....

But when the rioters got under way, they found they were outnumbered 800
to 1.  Clicking on the People Connection icon returned the message "The
room you requested is full. Would you like to go to another one like it?" 
Then dumped users into Lobby 569. 

In 1995 a New York Times reporter lost his account because his daughter
had typed the letter "G" across too many consecutive lines.  But since
then, scrolling has mutated into almost an AOL artform.  Guide QUO entered
one of the rooms where the rioters were loitering...and typed

	Guide QUO:	.<3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3
	Guide QUO:	.<3        Happy Valentine's Day!  <3
	Guide QUO:	.<3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

Attempts to terrorize users backfired.  In Lobby 177, COOLJ86 fired an
elaborate macro which drew a head--complete with eyes, nose, and
ears--surrounded by two hands raising their third finger.  But it provoked
less than a frightened response.  ("Cool.  How did you do that? That face

The efforts even received a cold response in, where a more
sympathetic reaction might be expected.  "i dont think there ARE any REAL
hackers on AOL," one poster commented.  "if you were a true hacker you
would know that hacking AOL is LAME."

Twice the AOL List ended up offline.  But it's never been clear if
problems were hackers -- or just another day on AOL.  "It was incredible,"
another poster noted in "I dropped into the chat pits at
14:30 PST and the hackers had implemented some type of program that had
turned every person on AOL, save me, into utter morons."

Tonight the Revolt chat room was empty--leaving only the echoes of a
prediction that came early on Valentine's Day. "This is the most sad ass
riot Ive ever seen." 


The night of the hacker riot, AOL's welcome screen displayed an oddly
inappropriate message.  It read, "Cupid came by and dropped us a line...." 

        David Cassel
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