AOL Promotional CDs – Return to Sender
Throughout the 1990s, AOL distributed hundreds of thousands of promotional AOL floppy disks and CDs, offering hours of free service for new subscribers. The disks cost the company upwards of $300 million dollars over the years and at one point, caused all other CD production to be halted. The disks were highly criticized for their environmental impact and as early as October 1996, Usenet members were sharing ideas on how to destroy them. In 1997, computer software engineer Dave Dyer created a lit Christmas tree out of 66 AOL CDs. In August 2001, NoMoreAOLCDs.com launched, encouraging people to mail them their unwanted promo disks. Their initial goal was to gather 1 million of the disks and hand-deliver them back to AOL headquarters. By May 2003, they collected 179,245 disks. The project ceased on August 10th, 2007 after collecting 410,176 disks.
In 2002, Sparky Haufle launched AOLCollecting.com, both to show off his collection of AOL CDs as well as facilitating trades between other collectors. The following year, The AOL CD-ROM Museum was established, housing pictures of multiple people’s collections as well as separate exhibits highlighting the different types of disks issued. Well into 2005, collectors continued to share photos of their collections on forums.