Try installing and using Pidgin Instant Messenger. You can run many different types of accounts (including AOL, I believe). If you have an MSN and AOL you can sign in both of them and it will put both lists into one window .. Which is useful.
If you can't connect to your friend's list through Pidgin then there is perhaps something wrong with their servers.
I have a toshiba laptop 32 bit with norton 360, and Vista home prem. My Aol has started to have problems. Originally, I had 9.1 and it worked perfectly. Within the last month ,when I sign on to aol, I no longer have a buddy list , the sign off and switch user tab is gone and my toolbar carousel also disappeared as well. Some of the items left on the toolbar are blank or dark when they are clicked and the drop-down windows are displayed.
I uninstalled 9.1 and 9.5 again and reinstalled 9.5. The same thing happened again. Aol is working fine except it is missing the items that I mentioned and possibly a few more.
Any help would be appreciated!