AOL’s new 9.0 software continues to underwhelm me – I have yet to meet a computer that seems happy about having it installed. Too many times I’ve seen slowdowns and crashes where AOL 9.0 seems pretty clearly to be the culprit.

On the other hand, AOL Instant Messenger was always reasonably harmless – free, no requirement that you have an AOL subscription, a little cute but acceptable.

Here’s an article that might convince you to stay completely away from AOL altogether, including the IM client. As a result of recent “upgrades,” AOL IM now has the ability to sprinkle new icons on your desktop at odd moments for various AOL services. (Ah! I hear some of you thinking. THAT’S how they got there!) Apparently it can also add sites behind your back to your Internet Favorites list and add things to your Startup menu as well.

Those are pretty bad things, but there’s one more thing that’s simply unforgivable. The IM client now can download multimedia advertisements and display them at odd moments, without asking permission. The columnist describes his feelings when his computer began talking and playing music when he was turned away from it – and only after much hunting did he discover that it was a trailer for a Ben Affleck movie playing in the AOL IM program. Even worse, it wasn’t easy to turn it off – hitting Close only started it up a second time in a bigger window, and closing that sent it back to the IM program.

At the moment Yahoo and MSN/Windows messengers are better than that, although only a bit. (Yahoo IM started singing to me about Juicyfruit gum last night, which didn’t suit my mood, but at least it was a result of a voluntary click by someone on the other end.)

If you’re an AOL subscriber or IM user, start looking around for the exits!

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