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AOL reaches 12 million mark

The giant online service announces another membership milestone, but it may be lagging internationally.

America Online today announced another milestone--it has it the 12 million member mark, continuing to outpace its competition.

AOL hit 11 million members in January and 10 million two months earlier.

The numbers, while clearly showing strong growth at the No. 1 online service, do not reflect what is commonly referred to as "churn," the rate at which old members leave and new members join.

When AOL raised its prices in February from the Internet standard of $19.95 per month for unlimited access to $21.95, Bob Pittman, chief executive of the online portion of the service, said he expected some customers to leave. But in the long run, he expected AOL's numbers would continue to climb.

AOL does not release "churn" numbers. But Pittman said today in a statement Milestones that the 12 million number "confirms that AOL's convenience and ease of use are key to the online experience for mass market consumers."

Though AOL sees the numbers as a positive sign, its subscriber numbers internationally--where the next growth spurt is expected--did not appear to be growing as rapidly.

AOL said that of its 12 million members, 1.3 million were outside the United States, AOL makes online waves with more than 1 million in Europe. But AOL announced that it had reached the 1 million member mark in Europe two months ago.

"Sometimes international is a few years behind us," said AOL spokeswoman Wendy Goldberg. "You can't look at it in one point. I think we're right on track."

The subscriber numbers do not include CompuServe, which AOL acquired earlier this year.