Though Internet bellwethers such as Yahoo! ( YHOO) and Amazon.com ( AMZN) fell sharply from their early 2000 highs, more than a year passed before AOL Time Warner's shares fell as far and as deep. But now that Internet headline stocks like Yahoo!, Amazon.com and eBay ( EBAY) have climbed back to levels not seen for more than two years, the question is when AOL Time Warner -- dragged down by numerous issues at its America Online unit -- will join the party, too. To be sure, AOL's shares haven't done bad lately, rising 50% since late February. But with the media and entertainment conglomerate trading at about a third of its stock price two years ago, investors have to sort out which possible developments at the company will nudge the stock along the road to recovery, and which will block its path. Some likely drivers are AOL-specific issues such as the recovery of the online advertising market and the attrition rate of AOL's dial-up subscriber base. Or, because investors may have decided conditions at AOL are as bad as they're going to get, perhaps improved conditions at the rest of AOL Time Warner will suffice. In any event, the news trickling out of AOL Time Warner in the past few months -- including a slow resurgence of support among sell-side analysts -- gives cause for optimism. "The Street, on average, is neutral to negative on the name," says one AOL Time Warner shareholder, speaking on condition of anonymity. "There's still a fair measure of cynicism on this name. That tells me people can be surprised on the upside." Given Wall Street's issues with AOL Time Warner management's credibility -- the two years since the merger have been a tale of serial guidance-lowering and other disappointments -- AOL Time Warner is in a unique position among media and entertainment conglomerates, says Fahnestock analyst Peter Mirsky. "I think this is the only company in this space where hitting the numbers is an actual catalyst," Mirsky says.