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America Online – but in Spanish

So I have this AOL email address that I’ve had since 1996. Since about 2000 I had an AOL Visa card so I didn’t have to pay any monthly fees, and now in the past year it’s gone free.

As a side note, I have to give Chase acknowledgment for great customer service. I had cashed in about 30,000 points for a year of free AOL only about a month or so before the AOL card switched over to chase when that program was dropped. I didn’t worry too much about it, but then got a letter saying that since I never got the benefit of those points they refunded them to me under the new Chase program. As a result I was able to trade those points for $375 at Best Buy. One AppleTV and Wireless N router later I am charging everything over a buck on my Chase card.

Back to the story – in the past month or so I’ve noticed that a bunch of the banners on their new mail client have switched to spanish. Uhhh, No habla espanol… I don’t really know what to think of this. Then again, it could be North and South America online, it’s not USA online (or white guy online for that matter). On the other hand I guess I feel like I’ve been kicked out of the community, granted a community I haven’t given a damn about since Gmail showed up, but a community nonetheless.

The other thing is that I’ve always thought that we are probably only 5 years away from some major improvements in automated translation so it shocks me that this is actually a slide backwards. Think about it – it’s quite possible that the web could be used to move everyone in the world to a unified language. Every day you get one new word via your email or newsreader, after a week this word replaces a “non-global” word and you barely notice the transition. 10 years later you’re speaking “Earth”. Who’ll run this? I have no idea. Why? Well, wouldn’t it be great to talk to everyone? Wouldn’t it be great if the word for soda world wide was Pepsi? Is this Google’s master plan? Your adwords being seen by 6 billion?

You’d think that with the 10 years of email I’ve sent through them that they’d see that the only words I’ve used are burrito and sangria so banners in any other language besides english are probably a waste of time. Hell, I don’t think I’ve ever typed the word sombrero (who says I’m not breaking new ground daily?)

Now if AOL could get me a burrito like Super Burrito in Concord, California…