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Mixed reaction to Netscape Online

AOL's entry into the free-ISP market makes a less than earth-shaking debut.
Written by Jane Wakefield, Contributor

The service has only been up for five hours but there is already plenty of reaction to AOL's free ISP Netscape Online.

AOL's ISP for the lads went live at midday today in what the service hopes will secure its plans for dominance in Europe. But reaction from industry experts, and the lads of course, was less than enthusiastic.

LineOne managing director Ajay Chowdhury is happy AOL has finally seen the light about free access but doubts it will provide the content to compete with the big boys. "There is very little content [on Netscape Online] compared to AOL and it is not particularly different from any other ISP," he said.

Chowdhury also believes AOL's attempt to court the lads through the Netscape brand was hypocritical. "Young men don't use AOL so this is a desperate attempt to protect AOL customers [who pay a subscription fee]. But if it really believed in the free model then AOL should have gone free," he said.

Gartner Group analyst Petra Gartzen believes Netscape Online lacks that special something needed to win over the so-called value customer. "The free Internet market is an established phenomenon in the UK and AOL would have to have some compelling content to stand a chance," she said. She remains unconvinced the deals with publishing houses EMAP and Dennis will be enough. "There are a huge amount of ISPs with good relationships with compelling content providers," she said.

ZDNet News invited the lads to put down their pints and comment on AOL's attempt to gain their clicks. Reaction was mixed but the general view seems to be Netscape Online has come to market very late and the UK is already saturated with free ISPs.

Several readers complained about the sign-up process. One reader attempting to download the software found the button did not work, and another complained he had to choose a username of between eleven and 16 characters.

One reader couldn't wait to sign up. Asked if he would be subscribing he replied, "Too right mate."

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