AOL’s message boards have played an important role in the growth of on-line fandom. They were often the first experience many had with on-line fandom because of AOL’s reach, its market saturation and because AOL had content locked behind its service that you needed to subscribe to in order to gain access to. While some parts of fandom might have come of age on-line with Usenet, through services like Prodigy and GEnie and university provided Interner access, many more did it through AOL.
AOL stopped being the subscriber of choice by the early 2000s and official boards began to die as fewer and fewer people participated on them. Eventually, the boards were moved from AOL’s locked behind ISP software to the web. People continued to use them less. And now, it looks like AOL is officially killing their boards. It brings an official end to that part of fandom’s history. It is pretty sad in its own way.