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Dubbed ”the cockroach of cyberspace” by critics, America Online has bested cooler competitors to become the wired world’s largest service provider. Granted insider access, Wall Street Journal reporter Swisher traces AOL’s evolution into a multimillion-subscriber network, while surviving Bill Gates’ 1993 threat to ”bury” the company, costly technological blunders, and chat-room child-porn controversies. Though Swisher rather giddily celebrates America Online CEO Steve Case’s ascendance over scornful ”digerati,” she also reveals the secret to his success: a ”bland,” ”vanilla,” and universally accessible product. Unfortunately, her cautious, workmanlike account captures AOL’s essence all too well. B-

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