There are, of course, several Web sites devoted specifically to the gay community -- like and Planet Out.
But none of these has the reputation among gays that AOL does as the go-to place to get laid. "It offers an easier means to an end," says Paul, a health-care analyst in Atlanta who says he visits AOL's chat rooms nearly every day.
An effective screen-name -- like "Opnwide4me" or "Uinmyass" -- leaves little room for second-guessing.
Double-click on the member profiles and there's even less confusion.
And then there's the system's legendary ease of use.
"I've tried other sites like Gay.com," says Paul. Nothing beats AOL for the immediacy of naked pictures popping up on your screen almost instantly." Rory O' Neill, president of Cybersite, which specializes in building online communities, says Paul isn't just imagining AOL's speed and ease of use.
What AOL lacks in steam rooms and towel-wrapped men it makes up for in steamy chat and naked pictures zooming across its servers.
"Gay OL," as many gay men have christened it, is home to hundreds of thousands of men "window-shopping" in the M4M (men for men) chat rooms. Your Gchat list is just people you know, but your AIM list was a hodgepodge of miscreants from the entire Internet. Some guy you almost bought a shovel from on Craigslist? "I don't have to get dressed up and go to a bar, drink, get my clothes full of smoke and wonder if anybody's interested." But avoiding the bar scene is only part of it.At 18 million members, AOL is so big you can find just about everything -- or anyone -- you're looking for."URABTTM," for example, asserts: "You seek control and domination by aggressive top." If the chat rooms are too busy, Steve will do a "member search" of men currently online who live in Atlanta and have keywords like "muscular" or "hung" in their profiles.