Mass-market success looks different when you see its audience! But not if you listen to the company CEO! Steve Case foisted his latest round of PR in a speech at a business conference, claiming that search engines like Yahoo and Excite are copying AOL -- instead of the other way around. AOL recently added a high-profile search engine, and tried to mimic the success of free mail sites like HotMail and Juno by adding their own.

Some members of the press may be buying it. Despite well-publicized problems, Steve Case's insistence on a positive message is ultimately wearing down the resistance of some cynical columnists.

But not all of them. Behind the scenes, one reports, AOL is flip-flopping on their business plan, shucking unsuccessful content areas like so many empty candy wrappers.