MSN comes in to say hello. We struggle manfully to get our guests a telephone line, and then nod wisely as the Great New Plan is unveiled. The MSN client software is being ditched in favour of totally Webbed content. With CompuServe saying that the same fate awaits the less-than-loved WinCIM, this leaves AOL all out on its lonesome once again. MSN's business model is that the company sells you Internet access fairly cheaply and also offers some editorial and other content to keep you looking at its site. That's the same business model as the rather troubled CompuServe uses, and identical to the now-defunct Europe Online and the less-than-sparkling UK Online. Can't really see the point, to be honest: if you want to sell cheap-ish connectivity, why not just do that? Demon manages. And, if you want to do content, concentrate on that instead. We do. There's no real reason to bundle the two together, any more than it would make sense for (PCDN publisher) Ziff-Davis to buy newsagents or Smiths to start magazine publishing.
AOL and CIX have a much more interesting plan. They've both spotted what the content people like best, stuff that just can't be provided in printed form, is the stuff provided by other people. Both have fostered the community spirit, and as a result make a good fist of getting people to pay to write the content that other people pay to read. It's an astonishing trick; while CIS and MSN do run forums where people discuss stuff among themselves, AOL and CIX share the ability to let the punters create their own areas. That makes all the difference. Now, if MSN took the time to write some good back-end conversation and forum management software so that it could legitimately claim to be the next generation of online conferencing, one would get much more excited.
Instead, gaze with pallid face at the Star Trek and American Car Buyer areas on MSN that the company hold out as the great hope for the future, and sigh.
Do I want to go to Live 96? A good question. No. I hear back from those who have been that it's jam-packed with the sweaty, heaving throng. A few gadgets stand out (Sony's tiny camcorder, Psion-Dacom's exceptionally silly modems