America OnLine was an Internet service provider, like Cox or Qwest or any of the others. They sent discs out to you with the software on it to install. They charged you a monthly fee just like the cable companies do now. They are quite known for their discs because they sent million upon millions of them out. They were everywhere. Every store had them. They were free to take.
They were giant in the 90's. It was what they called a walled garden. You signed on and then it presented you with a window. In that window were icons for your mail and messages and web browsing. Everything always done in this window. There was no need to use a regular web browser like Internet Explorer or Firefox. Everything was done in this AOL window. Part of the problem was they would filter the web as well. So it wasn't quite always the real Internet. It was good for people just getting started online though.
Not sure of what they are doing today though. They are still around but j think they are more of just email providers now but I may be mistaken on that.