Leading UK ISP Demon Internet today poured cold water on Microsoft boasts that it had passed 100,000 British members for the Microsoft Network (MSN). While Microsoft was celebrating the landmark, which was 60,000 up on the six month ago figure, rivals cast doubt on the usefulness of the bald numbers.
"It's not clear whether this is trial accounts - anybody who has ever stuck the free disk in - or fully paid-up member numbers," said James Gardiner, Demon marketing manager. "Some services are experiencing more than 30 per cent churn. If there are so many users on the Net going in through CompuServe or MSN where the hell are they on Web page visits?" 'Churn' is the industry's term for short-term movement between free accounts.
Separately, Gardiner said he expects a shake-out in the ISP market this year: "Cost won't be the deciding factor as the monthly charge is only the price of a small round in the pub. Reliable access and understanding who your customer is will be decisive."