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America Online

MS Takes on AOL in Web Access: Round III 146

Cenotaph writes "ZDNet has this article on how Microsoft plans on trying to take AOL's web business away. Any guesses on if it'll work?" MS tried something similar a few years ago and failed. This time, who knows? But whether the current plan succeeds or fails, this is *very* bad news for smaller ISPs. The story says, bluntly, that Microsoft plans to "...help drain profits from the Internet-access business."
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MS Takes on AOL in Web Access: Round III

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  • I am very surprised (sp?) that "everyone" seems to think this is a *new* strategy for M$ to try to take control of the onramps to the information superhighway so it can own said "highway".

    Wake up, people, it has already started a long time ago with the first M$ investment in a cable operator. Did you guys notice how hard they have been pushing internet cable access, also?

    The more people are moving to cable access, the less democratic 'net access will be, because the more people go to M$-controlled cable ISPs, the less people go to phone-based ISPs, which will lead to the disapearance of many smaller players.

    Yes, cable (and ADSL) access is faster and all that fun stuff. But can every John Doe ISP operator/owner deploy that kind of infrastructure? Phone access gives a chance to anyone of becoming an ISP if they want to, and as long as "anyone" can become an ISP, 'net access will still be a free, non-M$ controlled activity.

    Or, IOW, despite phone access being a pain sometimes, it is maybe one the last major elements that keeps the internet free, democratic and not controlled/owned by M$...

    It is amazing how M$ managed to lock out the competition in OSes and apps. in the pre-load business by signing exclusionary agreements with one OEM/name brand at a time, doing this under everyone's nose, out in the open and with no one reacting untill it was too late. Now they are doing the same thing with cable access, and no one is reacting either...

    Bruno Majewski
    bruno@pubnix.qc.ca
  • It's about halfway through the article, in the third paragraph past the subhead, "Loss leader."

  • Once upon a time, we called these "Bulletin Boards," and many of them, across the U.S. and around the world, were linked through something called FIDOnet. This was back when the Internet was strictly for academics and govvies. Seems to me I still have all the old (DOS) software needed to set up a an old-fashioned loca; BBS & connect it to FIDO around here somewhere, and I bet I still have a 5.25" floppy drive somewhere out in the storage shed that'll read those old disks, too. You never know...
  • Smells like vaporservice to me.... free internet access from microsoft? highly doubtful. Probably just marketing tactics again as usual.
  • If they don't stock a movie you want, they go and find it somewhere and call you when you can rent it. They carry foriegn films. They carry the NC-17 versions of movies.

    See? You do find value in that store that you can't get from Blockbuster. Therefore it's perfectly reasonable for you to continue to give them your business.

    It just is not fair that they can leverage themselve upon every community.

    Actually, it's perfectly fair. That doesn't mean they will wipe out other businesses. I think it's just fine if Blockbuster wants to put a store on every streetcorner in the country. I don't, however, think it's ok for them to try to destroy local businesses by dropping prices there temporarily or using other anti-competitive tactics.

  • You can't be loyal to something you honestly don't see any direct or indirect value in.

    You'd be amazed to know that people are often loyal to certain products without even knowing why. The product could be domonstrably inferior, but the person is "loyal" to the brand because they've always used it. Loyalty doesn't always make sense. Perhaps it could be chalked up to resistance to change.

  • They carry less movies and charge about the same as the Blockbuster that opened down the street. I still go to my local place due to a sense of "loyalty." Loyalty is what lets a business thrive.

    So you stay with the inferior business out of simple loyalty to that store or company? A dog wouldn't even do that, and people definitely shouldn't.

    While I can think of lots of reasons why I would want to stay with a smaller store rather than Blockbuster, you didn't give any of them so I have to assume that you were just staying with the smaller company out of pure loyalty as you said. Now, if there is some intangible reason you stay with them, i.e. they know you by name and you like the personal service, or they cater to a specific interest of yours, then that is something that they offer that Blockbuster doesn't. This could tip the scales in favor of the smaller store.

    However, just staying with them because that's where you've always rented is not what makes business work. Competition makes business work. May the best company win and all that. If Blockbuster provides everything the other store provides, and has a larger variety of movies as well (assuming you value that variety), then they deserve the business because they have built the better store. To stick with the store that offers less for the same money is to encourage mediocre businesses to continue to survive while the superior ones don't do as well as they deserve.

    I'm not saying that small businesses are necessarily mediocre. As I said earlier, I could come up with many reasons why I'd prefer the smaller store. I'm just talking about a particular set of circumstances.

  • If there weren't some loyal people willing to expend the effort to fix and improve things, Linux would have been quickly abandoned.

    That's not loyalty that keeps them there. At least not most of them. It's that Linux provides them with things that no other OS provides. These are not necessarily OS features. Some people stick with Linux because they understand that it's the best long-term choice. It doesn't encourage rampant abuses of consumers by big corporations. Surely there's value in that? It doesn't allow anyone to have ultimate control of the development direction or hi-jack the standards. Isn't there some value in that? It allows them to create new things and have those things used by others. It let's them add the things that are important to them. They don't have to get permission from anyone or beg for things to be added. Many people value that too? Control is a powerful feature.

    You see, people find value in many things. That's why they stay with them even when other things appear to be superior. The superiority may be a superficial thing to them because they are concerned with larger issues. It's the value people see in things that makes them stay. Not just loyalty.

  • This is true.

    I use my disposable free email accounts for spambait, but for reliability, I use my work account.

    I once got a message in my Yahoo inbox that was two months old. I complained to their admin, and got no response. Oh well. It was free.

    "The number of suckers born each minute doubles every 18 months."
    -jafac's law
  • The only way I'll ever sign up for MSN is if they give me free beer.

    You hear me Billy?
    And it better be good beer too. So I can get good and drunk so I can't remember my password!

    "The number of suckers born each minute doubles every 18 months."
    -jafac's law
  • In other words, when you get that spiffy new ISDN, ADSL, or Cable access set up, don't throw away that old modem, it may one day be your only ticket to freedom. A slow ticket, but a free one.

    Also, bear in mind that the big news item of late about cable internet service is that cable providers can selectively block access to sites if they want.

    "The number of suckers born each minute doubles every 18 months."
    -jafac's law
  • I'm pretty sure Microsoft is aware that they will lose this trial no matter what, and I'm pretty sure they don't care because they're going to appeal and appeal it to death, and by the time it reaches the supreme court, George W. Bush's great grandson will be finishing up his second term as US President, and there won't be a supreme court justice left who will give a damn.

    "The number of suckers born each minute doubles every 18 months."
    -jafac's law
  • Well, you're wrong.

    If Microsoft products are better - Mister "hotmail" mail account, then please explain to the rest of us why Microsoft's best and brightest engineers could not convert Hotmail's servers to NT after Microsoft bought Hotmail? Seems the Unix solution Hotmail was using prior did the job, and the NT solution MS tried to crowbar in just plain couldn't handle it, no matter how much money they threw at the hardware, no matter how much they tweaked and patched.

    ZicoKnows Jack

    "The number of suckers born each minute doubles every 18 months."
    -jafac's law
  • What paranoia?

    I used to be able to buy Amigas.
    I used to be able to buy OS/2.
    I used to be able to get regular updates to NetScape.
    I used to be able to buy Borland C++.
    I used to be able to buy Lotus 1-2-3.
    My CNE used to be worth something.

    Things were there, have mysteriously disappeared.
    Are they chilling out in a concrete cell someplace in the Nevada desert? Have they been kidnapped by UFO's?
    You're not paranoid if they really ARE out to get you.


    "The number of suckers born each minute doubles every 18 months."
    -jafac's law
  • Well, if it came from WSJ, then it's likely to be pro-Microsoft FUD.

    It's possible that this may be more noise than anything else. We all KNOW Microsoft has huge cash reserves, but maybe not enough to pull off a stunt like this. . . maybe. . .
    So perhaps this FUD is an exercise to see what AOL will do, or see if MS can bait AOL into doing something that could get them into trouble.


    "The number of suckers born each minute doubles every 18 months."
    -jafac's law
  • Microsoft can handle free software.

    IE, FrontPage, WiMP. . .

    it's free OSes that they probably would choke on.

    "The number of suckers born each minute doubles every 18 months."
    -jafac's law
  • >they could charge just $1/month and still make $300 Million each and every year.

    Actually, they would lose money like crazy. Remember, they have to pay an upstream provider for bandwidth in all areas. They have to buy and maintain modems, and they have to pay for telephone access and switching. These things are not cheap.

    My company spends $20 for every 24 hours someone is connected to one of our modems.
  • I agree that there will be many ISP's, partly because there are not significant returns to scale after a certain point in the provision of a connection. POP's and tech support costs scale fairly linearly with #'s of users. The biggest return to scale is in the attraction of eyes for advertising. As internet connections get faster, it will be more and more feasible to provide content only sites without an ISP backend. AOL has a huge lead in the content market and I don't see MS getting near them any time soon.

    It may get down to 3 or 4 large providers... but it will not get down to only one. This is not necesarily bad. Oligarchies consist of the
    fiercest competitions there are (hello Coke and Pepsi). Prices will remain low, and incentives for improvement will be high.


    Coke and Pepsi are, in fact a great example of the problems of Oligarchic markets. They "compete" but on rather narrow terms of trying to shift consumer preference. Neither side risks lowering prices because they would lower profits. If Pepsi and Coke were truly competing in the free market sense you would expect to see prices for their products at marginal cost + a reasonable return on capital. Needless to say, prices are comfortably above this limit (just how much does it cost to make fizzy sugar water anyway?). To get an idea of the pricing of a competitive cola, you need to only look at generic brand colas which are 20-50% less expensive. Even generic brands could would be probably be priced lower in a broader market as they now get their prices bouyed by an expensive premium cola market.

    I personally believe that monopolies and oligopolies are inevitable and can be tolerated in most cases. But don't try to say that an oligopoly is better for the consumer because of fierce competition. You will usually be wrong.
    --
  • Microspend takes on AOhell ... Do I care ?

    I prefer Linux and a real ISP. I hope they waste each other in a bitter battle.
  • Free access is here. It is called NetZero. NetZero is based on the permise that ads can pay for access. The math ain't hard. At $15 per thousand impressions, you are covering the costs of a modem-based ISP. If you can attract a better demographic, you can get up to $200 per thousand impressions, as the Wall Street Journal does. At some point between these two numbers, free broadband becomes possible. Interesting! So if both AOL and Microsoft don't get in gear and try something different, they are headed for the tar pits.

    AllAdvantage will pay you to surf, and use whatever ISP you like. You can, right now, subsidize your broadband access this way and not even feel the loss of bandwidth used for ads. Or you could use NetZero and AllAdvantage and pocket all the money. Wierd, eh? But that's capitalism.

    So why do /.'ers expect Microsoft to stand still? It isn't just narrow and devious motives that drive them. They do pay attention to larger trends.

  • This is giving me a lot of stress, because I've got a serious moral problem with the idea of wishing another person dead, but Bill has managed to get me to that point.
  • > It's the value people see in things that makes
    > them stay. Not just loyalty.

    You can't be loyal to something you honestly don't see any direct or indirect value in.


    ---
  • > And some bozo AOL spokesperson said "It's all
    > about loyalty" or something to that end. Screw
    > loyalty!

    Heh. Yeah, "loyalty" in the sense that opressed masses in a totalitarian regime are loyal. 'Tis called vendor lock-in, folks.

    > Loyalty only promotes inefficency. If we were
    > all "loyal" to Linux then there would be no
    > reason for it to improve. We use it because
    > it's great and keeps getting greater.

    Disagree. There are two sides to this coin.

    It's a lot easier to go somewhere else than it is to fix problems. If there weren't some loyal people willing to expend the effort to fix and improve things, Linux would have been quickly abandoned.

    Real loyalty comes when you're willing to invest something of yourself in a thing or a person; when you have a vested interest in their well-being. It's loyalty to the software and to an ideal that by and large keeps the Free Software coders going. Even pragmatists like ESR have their own set of (largely pragmatic) ideals that they are loyal to, from which their loyalty to Linux stems.

    I understand you're looking at loyalty from the standpoint of "we'll stand by you, no matter what", but there's just more to it than that.

    It's not real loyalty if someone will stand by you, but then not bother to help you.

    If people were not loyal to Linux, they would have no reason to improve it.
    ---
  • I read this same article on the train to my commute to work in Wall Street Journal..i didn't
    see any credit to zdnet in the paper, and no credit to wall street journal on the zdnet site..
    oh well.. MS and AOL are both the same.. they're happy by getting the idiot users on both ends.. cuz it means idiots will spend more money.. they don't know what value is... they see cheap and a big name to back it up and they go for it.. oh well.
  • Is that a promise or a threat?

    Indeed, AOL is one of the few companies that has pissed me off more than MS. I speak from several years of experience using AOL for customer service at my last job. I can easily see how AOL could claim to be the next MS. See if any of the following sounds familiar:

    • Their software quality is consistently poor. Awkward design, misfeatures, and bugs are too numerous to count, and the client is hopelessly bloated.
    • "Improvements" are made for marketing purposes only.
    • AOL programmers seem never to consult prior art; new features always seem to be designed without thought or consideration to the user experience.
    • Once an "improvement" is made, any bugs or faults in the code or design are permanent. Code is never fixed unless it is fatally broken.
    • Despite the above, AOL execs are somehow able to convice themselves that they are superior to the rest of the world, and this hubris colors everything they say.
    You can imagine how I cringed when I heard AOL bought Netscape last year. Now AOL is claiming to be the next MS, and one can only hope that they'll both bring each other down...

  • Microsoft thinks it's anti-trust troubles are just about over...if they (or AOL for that matter) started to take over in the manner they described,
    putting countless local ma-n-pa ISP's out of business, I would *hope* the government would step in.


    I don't see why. Very few ISPs actually make money through the ISP itself, in the first place, especially small ones; this realization was made a couple years ago. All the competition has already dropped prices to a level where monthly access rates hardly cover the associated costs to run an ISP, hence why most are looking for alternative revenue streams (web design, consulting, banner ads, products, etc).

    having the gov't step in to stop AOL/MSFT from essentially shutting down the small handful of "ma and pa" ISPs that might be in the black, would be almost akin to having Pizza Hut broken up into "baby Huts" to keep them from quashing some instance of 'Luigi's pasta palace' in Podunk City, Arkansas.

    However, if this actually came at the cost of quality, that's another story. However, it probably wouldn't, as there would likely still be enough local competition in the next eschelon up from "ma-and-pa", who have already moved on to alternative revenue streams to supplement income.

    Basically: if you're trying to enter the ISP-only market right now, you're about 2+ years too late in 90% of the US. If you're a "ma-and-pa" ISP who's been around, but haven't yet moved on, you'll probably go down anyway, regardless of MSFT/AOL action.
  • Hmm. So they view it as a loss center ? Doesn't that mean they are going to sell their internet service below cost to run AOL out of business, just as they did Netscape with their browser ? Is the DOJ paying attention ?
  • If the price war ends in a monopoly, or an oligarchy of limited choices, that is bad for the consumer, as ultimately prices will go up and service will decrease.

    You are right, though, as things stand now, this is merely competition, which is a good thing (even if the competitor is The Company We Love To Hate).

    I also find the mergers and megamergers in the ISP world to be a concern. On the telecommunications side a few years ago we had a number of choices for leased lines (128k, T1, etc.). Not for connecting to the internet, but for connecting to the exchanges and other offices. After a number of large, well publicized mergers, our choices have diminished dramatically. As has the service. Lines that at one time took an hour to fix now take a day, and, alas, that particular company is still the best choice out of what has become a limited supply of bad choices. I fear the same thing may happen to our choices for internet connectivity, either through the 500 pound gorilla that is Microsoft, or through unrelated mergers and predatory pricing having little or nothing to do with Mr. Gates. These developments do bear close watching, regardless
  • I think Ziff Davis should have to give away their magazine for free since they make all their money on spreading spin and propaganda...
  • Either this or force ISPs to support non-Windoze OSes (how?).
    Want it or not, I am now realizing that some form of regulation is necessary to force ISPs to support non-M$ machines... This and finding a way to stop M$ from investing in ISPs. Imagine that: having to force ISPs to return to the "on the internet, no one knows you are using a [insert non-windoze platform here]" days, imposing regulations to bring back platform-neutrality to the 'net!

    Well, I think that's an easy answer. Microsoft just *forced* ISP's to buy alternative OS's. As in Microsoft saying "We are going to drive you out of business".

    Think Pepsi. When they decided to get into the restaurant business, did that improve their contracts with competing businesses? What, it didn't? Why not? Why did they say, "Cool, Pepsi sells pizza, I'll sign a contract with them to sell Pepsi with my pizza." No, they probably thought, "Why would I want to depend on a company that's going to try to compete with me?"

    Think of it another way. You have a company that sells to contractors. Home Depot. They then decide to go into the contracting business themselves. Now why would the contractor go to Home Depot when they know that Home Depot competes against them. That job they just lost probably was Home Depots. They'll go to another hardware company.

    The first rule of thumb any MBA learns is "Never compete with your customers. There's no quicker way to lose good clients to the compeitition.

    When an ISP now needs to upgrade their servers, do you think they are goig to be interested in Microsoft products anymore? Not on their life. Why buy from a company who's intent is to make them unprofitable? There are many better choices out there, and they keep looking better and better, too.

    Ah, here we sit trying to compete against the 6 ton sloth, when the 6 ton sloth's greatest enemy is ... itself. We want have to do anything to combat Microsoft deceptive marketing, they're handling that just fins.

    -Brent
  • I would have to say, dealing with ISP's, you get what you pay for. If MS wants to offer Free net' access, let them. The service will turn to crap. (Like it already isn't) Local ISP's have always been better than national ISP's, and always will.
  • ISPs have been rather ready and willing to take down sites at the slightest hint of a lawsuit.

    I think this has a lot less to do with the number of choices available. The law isn't clear in the area of ISP liability and no company wants to be a test case. Lawsuits cost a lot of money.
  • M$ can pull on AOL, what AOL did to to M$ with the IM protocol. In Windows M$ could release a service pack that disables the AOL Adapter for dial up. In Win2k they could eliminate support for the AOL adapter completely.

    2-3 years ago Netscape had the lions share of the browser market. IE now has it because of M$ optimizing windows to work better with it.

    LK
  • No... Because blockbust can lose money here but make it up due to sales in Georgia, North carolina, Tennesseee, California, etc. It just is not fair that they can leverage themselve upon every community. The local place has been here for 10 or 15 years. If they don't stock a movie you want, they go and find it somewhere and call you when you can rent it. They carry foriegn films. They carry the NC-17 versions of movies. These are things that blockbuster doesn't do. If blockbust wipes them out, there goes all the options that I very rarely exercize, yet love the idea of having.

    They can charge me more, the can have less movies in stock at any given time, but as long as they don't ask for my license, that makes me happy.
  • Screw loyalty???? That's got to be the most innane statement I've heard in a long time. Loyalty is what drives businesses.... There's a small video store in my town. They carry less movies and charge about the same as the Blockbuster that opened down the street. I still go to my local place due to a sense of "loyalty." Loyalty is what lets a business thrive.

    Free internet acess works in the UK because everyone has to pay the phone companies acceess charges for local calls. A portion of this money gets rolled back to the ISP. It just can't work here, free internet access, no strings attatched. Not even by the ISP inserting a banner advertisment at the top of each page... There's no assurance a user has images turned on, is using http (as opposed to ftp, etc...).

    Flamebait:
    What will you pay money for?
    Not the OS (Linux) - the argument goes that the money distributing linux will be from value added services.
    Not for internet service - for some reason that should be free, too... and that's for a "value added service", in that they provided easy to access content, software, and a relative sense of "security" for the newbie. It's not targetted (nor even accessible, so far as i can to) for linux users.
  • Internet access is not the only thing MS is going after. Free web pages, too.

    MSN Web Communities [msn.com]

    Anyone want to open up the /. community, and have Everybody load up on a free 30 megabytes, courtesy of MSN.

  • Analog dial-up access will never be out. There is so much market saturation of regular analog modems that it will be a decade before we see a real decline. Analog access can be used from just about anywhere with a phone line, xDSL has a limited range, and cable needs a coaxial cable, which not everyone has. ISDN was never much of a contender, but it still is a little more robust then DSL at least for distance.
  • At the turn of this century we're seeing a repeat of what happened at the turn of the last century. Giant megalithic corporations scurrying to get the next consumer and make all the money they can without any regard for people. AOL and Microsoft figure they are so needed by consumers that they can do anything they want and get away with it. Sure free internet access look nice...until you see where it's coming from. Internet Explorer was free too but it made you commit to using it as your default browser and mail client ect. ad nausium. AOL is doing the same thing by assuming they are so important to you or I that they can take over Joe User's desktop. This is helping no one, free access just means they found a different way to get money out of you, whether you realize it or not.
  • gee I am so glad that the DOJ is on top of things. (LOL). THis just goes to show you that they do anything to put there competition out of business. ANYTHING. And the DOJ is doing nothing about them. Somoen needs to crack and destroy there server soon.
  • Sorry, but the reason that those once-huge products lost out isn't because Microsoft owns the desktop. It's because the Microsoft products were better.

    • Lotus 1-2-3: I actually preferred Quattro Pro anyway, but Excel just blew both of those away. Not even close.
    • WordPerfect: Had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the world of WYSIWYG, which is what customers wanted (WIWCW?). I thought Lotus Ami Pro (3.1?) was much better than either WordPerfect or Word, but it was Lotus's own fault that they waited so long to update their software that I eventually moved to Word 6 and never looked back.
    • Netscape: Even if you still thought it was better than IE 4, the consensus is that IE 5 blows it away. Why would a new user ever choose Netscape over IE 5?
    • dBase IV: Well, I actually never used it -- I was a Paradox guy -- so I can't really comment on it. Did it ever outgrow its DOS environment, though? I know Microsoft never had a quality database program for DOS, so is this another case of a company not adapting well to the GUI? (Really, I don't know.)
    • Java: If Java fails, the blame belongs squarely on Sun's shoulders, with their contradictory attempts at creating an "open standard" that only they can change along with the phoniness of their "open source" license. Personally, I'd like to see other companies use Microsoft's Java extensions (like Transvirtual is doing with Kaffe), and for Microsoft to support 1.2 and Swing.

    So, in all those cases (except dBase IV which I don't know about, and Java, which doesn't really apply here, nor has it's market been captured by Microsoft), Microsoft won by producing better software. That's how the market is supposed to work, kids. Of course, it's important to have the marketing muscle to be able to tell customers why they should be using your product instead of the competition. But take away the marketing and IE 5 is still the best browser, Excel is still the best spreadsheet, and so on. We're not talking voodoo here.

    That's also why AOL has remained on top even though MSN's been gunning for it for years, and even though Microsoft has owned the desktop for years: I haven't heard (at least I can't remember hearing) any arguments as to why I should want to choose MSN over AOL (I don't use either of them). I'm no AOL fan, but for the segment of the market that they target, they're doing a damn good job.

    But if they slip up, you better believe that MSN will be there to take advantage of it -- and if they make the best product, more power to 'em.

    Cheers,
    ZicoKnows@hotmail.com

  • while i'm not interested in the narrow-minded bickering of two slothful, decaying giants that make products i have no use for, i would be interested in seeing the results of this poll:
    i would rather:

    a. Pay $20 a month (or more for t1/t3/isdn/*dsl/cable) to an ISP.

    b. pay $21.25 a month to AOL.

    c. pay nothing for my internet access, but be constantly bombarded with ads.

    d. get free socialized internet access paid for by microsoft as bribery.

    e. i will simply continue to illegally use EarthLink accounts paid for with stolen credit cards.

    f. i am amish and do not participate in such sinful things as the internet.

    g. anonymous cowards suck.

    -Air Conditioner
    i want eWorld back
  • I feel that you are correct. I certainly disapprove. But you were mentioning that nobody is doing anything about this. Do you have any suggestions? I find myself to be fresh out.
  • having the gov't step in to stop AOL/MSFT from essentially shutting down the small handful of "ma and pa" ISPs that might be in the black, would be almost akin to having Pizza Hut broken up into "baby Huts" to keep them from quashing some instance of 'Luigi's pasta palace' in Podunk City, Arkansas.

    No, it'd be more like having the local phone company start a pizza place and send out free phones to everyone in town with a special button that would directly dial the phone company's pizza place. Sure, you _could_ dial another place, but it's _easy_ to get a BellCo Pizza. Plus, the phone company makes oodles of money from other revenue sources, so it's able to give away BellCo Pizzas.

    In a nutshell, that's what happened to Netscape.

    Could MS do that to AOL? Possibly. Would the US Gov't sue to try to stop it? Almost certainly.

    -jon

  • Granted, I was referring to the "old" TV Network. But these functioned very well for a long time on mere advertising revenues. It would be *possible* for the ISP's to go in this direction.

    TV and radio _never_ functioned that way. Networks have been selling content to affiliates since the dawn of broadcasting. Now some affiliates want networks to pay THEM to cary some shows and compensate them for advertising time. The network system is starting to break down.

    As far as something that is funded solely by advertising.. I can think of plenty of internet sites, as well as all those magazines that I can get for free at the super market or local club.

    Which _profitable_ WWW sites are soley advertiser funded? The sites making money are Yahoo (which gets money a billion different ways, including advertising), various porn sites (which charge subscription fees), gambling sites (collect from the games), other subscription sites (WSJ), and sites either selling things or auctioning things (and the auction sites skim off the price of the items sold). Advertiser-only sites don't make money.

    And saying that an advertising circular is advertising-funded is a tautology. It's like saying a billboard is advertising-funded.

    -jon

  • Just who in the hell do Case & Gates think they are, anyway? Some sort of dieties of the computer world? Just the mere notion that they think they can be *it* when it comes to internet access....I shake my head in disbelief.

    Microsoft thinks it's anti-trust troubles are just about over...if they (or AOL for that matter) started to take over in the manner they described, putting countless local ma-n-pa ISP's out of business, I would *hope* the government would step in.

    The sad part is it will probably happen like this. Big companies will take control of the access points to the internet, just like they've taken control of the access points to the telephone system, the cable Tv systems, etc. etc. Anyone thinking of starting an ISP should probably think twice.

    Anyone know when internet2 will start going public?
  • The article is indeed from the Wall Street Journal. The zdnet article has the WSJIE logo at the top, and the reporters are identified as WSJ reporters. Since the WSJ is given appropriate credit, I don't seem any problem with plagiarism.
  • Microsoft only has to offer free internet service long enough to kill all competition. They can afford to do that.
  • Anyone who charges $21.95/month is bound to get crushed. And some bozo AOL spokesperson said "It's all about loyalty" or something to that end. Screw loyalty! That is the stupidest business tactic I have ever heard! Loyalty only promotes inefficency. If we were all "loyal" to Linux then there would be no reason for it to improve. We use it because it's great and keeps getting greater. AOL had best do the same.
  • That is not loyalty you are talking about. I am using the word as it is defined. You stick with your ISP because they are good, and not to be "one of the gang." That is being a follower. You use your ISP, and would stick with your ISP because you think they would get better. People stick with Linux because they think it will get better, is better, or are immature and hate Microsoft. If development stopped, and Linux went to hell, everyone but the fools would stop and go to something better, like Hurd (if Linux sucked, that is). That's all I was saying. I think people don't understand loyalty.
  • I'm usually pretty cynical and pessimistic about the state of things, but I'm in a good mood today, so here it goes.

    MS has historically been FAR behind in these types of things.

    TCP/IP stack? Whats that?
    File sharing? Whats that?
    E-mail? Whats that?
    Internet? Whats that?
    Remote Admin? Whats that?

    Eventually they bring them to the masses, but its usually 5 years or so too late. Sure they dominate the market, but it's not the type of market that Linux or Unix is in. It's mom and pop. It's the Luddite/curmudgeon who isn't interested in the latest shiny technology.

    By the time MS figures out how to build a successful ISP (and remember, this is their SECOND try), most of the *nix elitest guru types will have already installed a DSL or T1 in their home office. The rest will be college students on dorm room ethernet connections. It is very unlikely that MS will have any impact on these installations, no matter what "added value" they put on their 56k dialup POPs.

    Prodigy, AOL, and Compuserve ALL tried this, and they couldn't even compete with bare bones ISP that were doing pure PPP with no extra gimmicks for TWICE the cost.
  • You have got to be kidding. The DOJ will be all over this in front of a judge faster than T3. Microsoft seems to be working in some sort of fantasy world where they think they can take one monmopoly position and leverage it across the entire US economy. Well, I sure hope that the DOJ carves them up into little pieces (i.e. splits up Microsoft). This is flat out absurd.

    It seems to me that there are just too many behemouth companies with their eye on complete control of the internet. AOL, Microsoft and AT&T being the most obvious at this point.

    I am afraid that the only way that this is going to be prevented is through government regulation.
  • Between cable-modems and xDSL, analog Internet access is on its way out. Our concerns about Internet access being dominated by carrier monopolies or oligopolies should be directed at the broadband providers.

    In any case, for the rest of the transition period, while analog is still the predominant Internet access method, the local phone carriers still have their ISPs. If anyone else can survive making their dialup access a loss leader, it's the baby Bells. Some competition is better than none.
  • Free Internet Access from Microsoft? There has to be a catch. Here's one senario:

    "Download MS Internet Exlporer 2001 with Dialup Networking Special Edition featuring XPPP protocol support! Fully integrated with Microsoft Internet Access! Absolutely Free!!"

    What you ask is XPPP? That would be the eXtended Point to Point Protocol, the "comodity" PPP embraced, extended and bastardized such that the only client capable of supporting it is the Microsoft-provided one. Guess what else? Microsoft only provides it for Windoze. Maybe MacOS. Linux, BeOS, Amiga, OS/2 can forget about it.

    Don't even get me started on blocked websites, newsgroups, the posibilities are endless. No way do I want any one company with that much control over what information I can or can't access. I'll support my mom-and-pop hometown ISP until they go under, then I'll just have to get my own T1.

    kz

  • I'd be happy to see MS and AOL duke it out just as long as they want. Let them tear each other apart. However, this MS plan to gain control of the Internet access market could indirectly hurt Linux.

    I happen to work for a small, local ISP. It is amazing how many inexperinced users choose IE over Netscape, simply because it's on their desktop. Some customers complain about our access rate (which is about $15 per month). If Windows came prepackaged with a $9.95 per month, or even free Internet access service, you'd better believe that local ISPs will be in big trouble.

    If a MS-only access service becomes the norm, it will be extremely tough to get users to migrate to Linux. I can (hopefully not) forsee a time when non-proprietary ISPs will exist only in major population areas. You can bet that MS will see this as an opportunity to kill Linux. By running ISPs out of business, then only supporting Windows for Internet connections, MS will be cutting into the heart of Linux. The OS grew up, and now thrives on the Internet. Without acces in many areas, Linux could be tremendously hurt.

    Don't underestimate the power of something that's free, or nearly free. I (and I'll bet many others as well) came to Linux initially because it is free.

    We never had this problem with AOL, because at $20 a month, local ISPs can offer a better price. How do you under sell a free service? Linux community, beware.

    Josh
  • Do you watch for suspicious black vans waiting outside your house too? This level of paranoia needs to stop.
  • AOL should accelerate the adoption of free OSS software. If MS goes after AOL's revenue stream with free Internet services, AOL has to respond to MS where it hurts them -> free software. That is MS's primary business -> that's where they are vulnerable.
  • I'm starting to think that way to go here is co-op ISPs. Find the other geeks in your community and pool your resources to get a T1 or whatever.

  • The same thing always happens in a price war. Companies get killed and prices go down for the consumer. I fail to see how this could possibly be a bad thing.
  • I definitely agree. I might even be willing (God forbid) to use something like MSN if it was free. Probably not just on principle, though. :) But lots of other people wouldn't care.

    Free is a powerful force. I'm using a "free" ISP right now (for the summer until I get back to Ethernet at college :) called NetZero [netzero.net]. I can't complain too much, because it's completely free. I just have to ignore some ads. Easy enough. I wouldn't be surprised if these things undercut local ISPs and Linux (it only works in Windows becaues of the ad window) more than MSN would. Even MSN wouldn't be completely free (you'd have to sign up to buy stuff from MS according to the article).

    So, a company who (in theory) doesn't really card that much about who wins the OS wars, is actually promoting Windows. They really don't have much of a stake in Windows, but they're promoting it, nonetheless. It those companies that are innocently promoting Windows over alternatives like Linux that will really hurt Linux.

  • Try the following paragraph (by my count, the 16th in the article, 3rd paragraph under the heading "Loss Leader", and just before the heading "Building a Base"):

    Microsoft has already launched its strategy to help drain profits from the Internet-access business. The company's deals with retailers and PC makers to offer customers bounties of $400 in return for three-year MSN service contracts has boosted sign-up rates by 50%, the company says. The company also has tested a price point of $9.95 a month and is considering offering free service to consumers who commit to a certain level of spending with Microsoft's electronic-commerce partners.

    Emphasis was mine, of course.

  • That one was invented by Rockefeller/Standard Oil, like, a long time ago. Bill just "embraced and extended" it.
  • I apologize for not being clearer... What I meant was that MS can handle "losing money like crazy" because they have a host of other money-makers -- MSN is not their major source of income. They had to be bleeding like crazy when they started giving away IE -- but it's okay, cause it sucks people further into their little web where they'll begin to shell out money for other products. (Even Netscape, to an end, followed this method -- give away the browser 'cause the server software is where the money is.)

    Unlike MSN, a start-up ISP can't afford to turn anything less than a profit. So whereas MS can stand to lose hundreds of millions of dollars a year, Ma-n-Pa ISP can't afford to lose even a hundred dollars.

    So what happens? MS(N) takes over the ISP industry by offering free/nearly free connections. Then they raise prices -- not by much, just a little at a time (like postage rates -- remember when it only cost a quarter?). Eventually you might be back to $9/month. Some start-up ISP hits the scene offering service for $8/month. MS drops their price to $5/month, the start-up ISP can't sign anyone up (who'd pay $3/month more for 56k instead of cable?). MS rules again.

    Yeuch. And I just ate lunch.
  • The same thing always happens in a price war. Companies get killed and prices go down for the consumer. I fail to see how this could possibly be a bad thing.

    In the short run, yes, you are correct. We get free or practically free internet access. That is, until Microsoft is the only widely available ISP left. Then what? What incentive will MS have to keep its "free" service when there is no competition?

    It's easy to respond that "anyone" can set up a phone-access ISP, whatever, but how much would you have to charge to remain profitable? If MS had 25 million customers (probably an gross underestimation if they succeeded in taking over AOL's share), they could charge just $1/month and still make $300 Million each and every year. A drop in the bucket, you say, to the cost of maintaining such a huge operation, but how close is your start-up phone-based ISP going to come to that revenue? And what user base is going to pay even $5/month for 56k access when they can pay $1/month for cable access?

    It's just another example of the classic Microsoft strategy: If we can't beat them on merits, we'll beat them by giving away a competing product. (Actually, that should probably read: Since we can't beat them on merits...)
  • Yeah, but I think that an underground culture will always exist in the computer world. Even if everything goes broad band commercially and is controlled by a few large companies. There will still be a subculture that remains hidden and entices the young will-be-coders to experiment and learn. It's just part of the human spirit to test the outer boundaries of what is possible, that will never die. I think actually beyond the facade of normalcy that is about ensue that there will be a great uprising among the youth once information is available at the click of a mouse. More and more people will begin to see the truth about the government, and the media. I think letting the corporations fund this and monopolizing it is just a cross we must bear. I mean it's such an expensive thing. But once it exists boy, there will be no stopping us!


  • Y'know, reading this makes me shudder. Frankly, I don't think AOL stands a chance, assuming the DOJ doesn't come down on MS like a ton of bricks.

    There's a simple reason: AOL's only _real_ advantage is content. They have special AOL-only chat, forums, and so on, and (you have to give them credit) make the Net simpler (some would say *too* simple).

    But what about MS? Suppose they brought all their content to bear. They have _tons_ that they can marshal: MSNBC, ZDnet, Bloomberg, and so on, since MS has been investing in other companies like crazy. Add to that the fact that MS has broadband access coming up (where AOL is lagging), and you have a serious threat where MSN failed before--especially if they are serious about offering it for free. Imagine--preinstalled on all Windows computers, and free...can anyone say "Explorer vs. Netscape"?

    Of course, MS could still fall flat--like by having the whole thing run on NT, in which case it's MS-Offline--but they could really hurt AOL, since they _can_ go on forever losing money on MSN Junior--remember, this is the company that scratches its armpit and earns another billion on the stock market.

    I'm no fan of AOL, but they are the only real hope of taking down MS in the near future IMHO (Linux is getting there in the server market, but has some ways to go in the desktop market). Even AOL's putative alliances with Sun, Netscape and Apple probably won't help--none of them have the financial clout that MS does.

    Sad story...I'll continue using my Mac and Linux until I get run over by a dump truck, but there are lots of PHBs and know-nothing users willing to go along with MS's garbage virtually in perpetuity...*sigh*

    Anyone is free to prove me wrong. I'd be _delighted_ to be wrong on this one. :-)

    Ethelred [surf.to]

  • I predict that Microsoft will soon bundle instant messaging into their OS. They will "integrate" it and claim that it is inseparable from the operating system. It will use Microsoft's servers and use closed standards which are only supported on Windows (oh, and Macintosh so they arn't labled as a monopoly). If, through some miracle, they do use an "open standard" it will be Microsoft's interpretation which will differ significantly from the official standard with extensions like marquee and Active X.

    As for the Internet service, does "cutting off the air supply" ring a bell? By paying computer retailers $400 per PC if the customer buys 3 years of MSN will effectively kill the ISP business with the exceptions being ADSL and cable modem, where Microsoft is already making large investments.

    Microsoft now sees AOL as public enemy #1 much like they saw Netscape. Now expect to see Microsoft steamroll over AOL and everyone else by leveraging their OS dominance to control the Internet.

    I guess they havn't noticed the DOJ trial or else they're betting on the Republicans winning the White House and are already making campaign contributions to that effect. After all, what's good for big business is good for the consumer, right?

    Anyone remember the old Standard Oil? It's happening all over again, except now instead of controlling the gas stations they also control the roads and the cars as well.

    If Microsoft is allowed to continue, they will control the entire Internet. They will pay people to use MSN which will use Microsoft servers. Since Microsoft will control all the servers, they will control advertizing and can and will lock out possible competitors. Microsoft will evolve IM to try and kill Email as it currently works by integrating it into the OS and adding bloated features like voice and video.

    AOL, Mindspring, Earthlink, Sprint, Pacbell, etc. will all get out of the ISP business since they cannot afford to offer 3 years of service at a loss. (3 years @ $10 = $360 - $400/PC - overhead costs = -$40+ per user)

    All MS has to do is jack up the prices on their next version of the OS a bit and up the licensing fees for their office and development products.

    2003: All IM traffic passes through Microsoft. For the CIA/FBI, life is easy. All major ISPs and most regional ISPs have shut their doors. Microsoft has invested heavily in ADSL and bought out @Home and now has all of that traffic going through MSN.

    2004: Microsoft creates a whole new plug-and-play protocol for accessing MSN which is some totally bastardized version of TCP/IP, something between NetBEUI and IPv6 plus a ton of complicated bloated features. Microsoft's automatic update feature upgrades everyone's computer to use the new protocol. The growing Linux community loses Internet access and dies a quick death. Apple survives only because MS ports their stuff (alabeit quite buggy) to the Macintosh to try and stave off the Justice Department, which they have little fear of due to their $500 million in soft money contributions to the Republican party which now has the White House.

    2005: M.S. purchases Cisco to support their proprietary protocol all over the Internet. Upgrades IOS to support the new protocols. All routers need a 512MB flash upgrade and a 1GB RAM upgrade. The IETF has disbanded.

    2006: Script kiddy discovers master back door password to Microsoft routers and servers is "crashw~2" and tears down the entier Internet.
    All of the other script kiddies go through Microsoft's firewall and install the latest Back Orifice on Bill Gates' computer. All of Microsoft's backups are erased and all computers are re-flashed with a BIOS that refuses to load any Microsoft OS. Ironically, Linux, FreeBSD, and ancient versions of BEOS and OS/2 load just fine.
    Microsoft's stock drops to $0.01/share as there are multiple class action suits with over 1,000,000,000 people affected. Bill Gates can kiss his Presidential race goodbye.

    2007: Linus Torvalds enters the US Presidential race with Alan Cox as VP in the newly formed "Open Party". Other major Linux developers, which ran a backup network using POTS modems, run for other government positions. The slogan is "Open Standards and Open Source". The world economy is in ruins due to all of the world's networks crashing.

    2008: Linus wins by a landslide and the Open Party controls both houses of Congress
  • Anyone remember the old Standard Oil? It's happening all over again, except now instead of controlling the gas stations they also control the roads and the cars as well.

    If Microsoft is allowed to continue, they will control the entire Internet. They will pay people to use MSN which will use Microsoft servers. Since Microsoft will control all the servers, they will control advertizing and can and will lock out possible competitors. Microsoft will evolve IM to try and kill Email as it currently works by integrating it into the OS and adding bloated features like voice and video.

    AOL, Mindspring, Earthlink, Sprint, Pacbell, etc. will all get out of the ISP business since they cannot afford to offer 3 years of service at a loss. (3 years @ $10 = $360 - $400/PC - overhead costs = -$40+ per user)

    All MS has to do is jack up the prices on their next version of the OS a bit and up the licensing fees for their office and development products.

    2003: All IM traffic passes through Microsoft. For the CIA/FBI, life is easy. All major ISPs and most regional ISPs have shut their doors. Microsoft has invested heavily in ADSL and bought out @Home and now has all of that traffic going through MSN.

    2004: Microsoft creates a whole new plug-and-play protocol for accessing MSN which is some totally bastardized version of TCP/IP, something between NetBEUI and IPv6 plus a ton of complicated bloated features. Microsoft's automatic update feature upgrades everyone's computer to use the new protocol. The growing Linux community loses Internet access and dies a quick death. Apple survives only because MS ports their stuff (alabeit quite buggy) to the Macintosh to try and stave off the Justice Department, which they have little fear of due to their $500 million in soft money contributions to the Republican party which now has the White House.

    2005: M.S. purchases Cisco to support their proprietary protocol all over the Internet. Upgrades IOS to support the new protocols. All routers need a 512MB flash upgrade and a 1GB RAM upgrade. The IETF has disbanded.

    2006: Script kiddy discovers master back door password to Microsoft routers and servers is "crashw~2" and tears down the entier Internet.
    All of the other script kiddies go through Microsoft's firewall and install the latest Back Orifice on Bill Gates' computer. All of Microsoft's backups are erased and all computers are re-flashed with a BIOS that refuses to load any Microsoft OS. Ironically, Linux, FreeBSD, and ancient versions of BEOS and OS/2 load just fine.
    Microsoft's stock drops to $0.01/share as there are multiple class action suits with over 1,000,000,000 people affected. Bill Gates can kiss his Presidential race goodbye.

    2007: Linus Torvalds enters the US Presidential race with Alan Cox as VP in the newly formed "Open Party". Other major Linux developers, which ran a backup network using POTS modems, run for other government positions. The slogan is "Open Standards and Open Source". The world economy is in ruins due to all of the world's networks crashing.

    2008: Linus wins by a landslide and the Open Party controls both houses of Congress
  • I believe AT&T will be forced to open up access on tthe cable to other ISPs. As a current TCI/AT&T @Home user I hope this happens, since currently @Home is home of lost packets. It's gotten to the point where people in my city have organized against TCI @Home and dragged the city council into the fray. The city council will soon require a minimum set of standards for @Home due to the lousy performance and support of AT&T/TCI@Home. This is an ISP that can't keep their mail servers running and makes my 28.8 modem often look fast.
  • Didn't MS say they next target were the ISP's with the next verison of Exchange?

    If they sign on windows people, they could easily only allow exchange clients, and drop POP3/SMTP, as the "exchange client is more featured" Then between MS' ISPs, set up advanced features, to add to the "fax effect"

    After web browsing, email is by far the next most popular, and I'd hate to see another potential standard embrace,extend and extinguish set in here. And the potential for "lock-in" for email is higher than for a browser - it's easier to transfer your favourites to bookmarks, than convert your local email database to another one. Instant messaging is also another client with significant lock-in effects, which they are realising. The browser was just the beginning.

    Over all, MS going into the ISP market, brings a whole new meaning for the marketing phrase "Where do you want to go today?"

    I'm worried.
    --
  • ...was near the end. An AOL executive claiming that people stick with AOL for the value of the service, not because of anything else.

    I don't know about anyone else, but the last time I used AgentOfLucifer at a friend's house, a 56K connection was slower than my local 33K connection and the speeds were very inconsistent. That seemed to be the case whenever I see AOL being used. I don't call that value. Especially since you can't get an e-mail without numbers in it, they sell your e-mails to spammers, and they saturate you with more advertisements than any other area of the internet I've ever seen. The interface of AOL is pure and simple designed to get you to spend money, not really to get you onto the internet.
  • I work at a Computer Store in Redmond, and we're seeing the first effects of M$'s plan right now. Starting Friday, M$ is going to give us $400 for every computer we sell, *if* we also sign up the customer for 3 years of MSN with the sale. Our cheapest computer is currently $499, with a $400 system being worked on. This means, within a few weeks, we'll be offering completely free computers-- WITHOUT 24/7 advertisements-- just standard MSN. We're expecting sales to go up dramatically as a result of this promotion.

    Needless to say, I've already given them my two weeks notice...
  • Microsoft vs. AOL? Is it possible for them BOTH to lose?

    -
  • NetZero is good. The current version offer up to 8-10 phone line in new yorks area. I'm currently using prodigy for the two month free service. I'm so unimpressive with this paid ISP.

    The speed is absolute the same; the phone lines has only one that supports 56k. Granted it doesn't have the ad square that Netzero have and can last up to 4 hour for newsgroup download, but I'm not going to pay for it for 20 bucks. I can do much more with cable tv. I can accept the Ad like I do with network tv as far as it doesn't flash. The moment it flashs I put a paper on my monitor and ignore it all together.

    cy
  • IT is extremely scary that MS and AOL think that they can destroy the independent ISP market. THe loss of choice is amazing. With only a few gateway providers, content can easily be filterred, and controlled. Which is a dream for the US govt and censorship advocates.

    It would be the end of the Internet as a global marketplace for ideas, and the beginning of a proprietary entertainment network.

    I will support my local ISP's throughout this, as i enjoy my freedom to go where i want, see what i want, and read the information that i feel i should. I do not like the concept of anyone being in a position to be able to tell me what i can or can not read/see, and if there is an oligarchy, the prociders will be in exactly this position.
  • I find it hard to believe that anyone fails to see that when M$ sticks their dirty hands into any business, it'll end up hurting the consumer community in the long run. Day by day, this world is starting to look more like the one represented in Apple's famous "1984" commercial. As M$ takes over every conceivable electronic, consumer, television, and information media business, it will resemble the "Big Brother" voice from the commercial, speaking its rules to the massive crowds of gray (beige) users (who are in some kind of slave-like trance). Someone or a number of companies need to come to the rescue (like the Apple woman who invades the commercial and saves the day) before M$ rules everything, including your right to choose.

    -----
    Linux user: if (nt == unstable) { switchTo.linux() }
  • Bundle it with the OS.. and give it away for free.
    We haven't seen this before. Those guys up in redmond must work pretty hard to come up with innovations like that.
  • yes, ZD's magazines are all super-pro-MS bullshit that swim in deep ignorance. And they have so many of them! It's horrible.
  • When AOL bought Netscape they also got a fist full of Redhat. This is the beginning of a true war. The next step, from my Window(TM), is an attack by AOL into Microsoft's territory: Operating Systems. AOL will distribute a copy of Redhat Linux (With a really dumbed down install, easy as can be) along with AOL client for Linux to everyone with a Snail Mail box. AOL 5.0 could very well be the transition from Windows to Linux as millions of AOL users upgrade their AOL client and are asked if they would like to try Linux instead of Windows. All AOL has to do now is partner with a good Office Suite maker (Corel, Stardivision, IBM?) and use their influence/pockets to help projects like Loki. ...or am I insane?
  • Microsoft's tactics at their finest: I just tried going to that site, and what did I get instead?

    "Your browser and/or operating system will have trouble displaying this Web site. Some features may not work correctly, and you may see errors or poorly formatted pages. In extreme cases, your browser or computer may crash."

    http://beta.c ommunities.msn.com/central/helium/en-us/uni/bwarni ng.htm [msn.com]

    I use the Opera webbrowser, because due to some horrible memory leak in Win98, Netscape and IE are just too bloated and act super-slow.

    The site gives me two buttons to click: "Ignore this warning and proceed at your own risk", and "Download Internet Explorer 5". The first button does nothing, I have yet to click on the second button.

    Typical "Your browser is inferior" FUD from Microsoft...

    - Jacob Rens

  • Hey all,

    Short but sweet :

    Microsoft tried with MSN and -lets face it- failed miserably. But hey, that doesn't matter, because we're Microsoft and I'm sure if we chuck some more money at the problem it will soon go away...
  • Hey all,

    Just for all the transatlantic people reading this I would like to point out that the UK has had free internet access for quite a while now, and it does work. Well.

    I have a paid account with Demon Internet and a free one from the largest free isp, Freeserve. Sometimes Demon is faster, sometimes Freeserver, but c'est la vie.

    Currently, everyone is setting up free access... even football teams...

    The only problem is that here we have to pay for all our phone bills and a local call comes in at 5p/min peak, 1.5p/min off-peak... not much but if you're a heavy user it can add up.

    Now, if I were Microsoft, wouldn't an 0800 advert-funded isp be the way to go ahed ? I know that no matter how fast/slow the connection, I would be willing to leave a robot downloading pages overnight...

    So, a challenge for Microsoft perhaps. Give us freephone access to the internet along with a free acount and we'll start to like you more. Fair ? Well maybe we can start listening to what you say every once in a while... just maybe.
  • Now that Netscape is no more

    Excuse me ? Netscape is no more ? You what ? Name the number one browser on Linux... hmm... lynx or Netscape... I'd believe it is Netscape. A lot of people still use Netscape... not nearly as many that use IE but still a significant proportion. I'm sure that once Netscape 5 is released things will start to look up for them.
  • Maybe I'm not getting it, but...

    SURE it would be GREAT if AOL and MS and everybody elsed opened up all their source and protocols and /or standardized on one IETF protocol.

    BUT...Isn't using AIM actually usage of the AOL network?? I can't really stand AOL like the next guy, BUT...they DID put a lot of MONEY and TIME into developing their network. That has to count for something, right? MS can't just exploit their service for nothing. Why can't I use my neighbor's idle bandwidth when he's online?? Why can't I make a cell phone call to my friend whenever I want, but only he has to pay? Sure it would be lovely if everybody opened up and got along, but let's not just villianize AOL. They have legitimate commercial responsibility (they have to service their customers with their network), and finite network capability.
  • It's not pop it's coke you yankee!
  • I don't know why anyone would want to feel loyalty for AOL.

    For my local ISP, however, sure. Yes, if they had terrible service and jerky, unhelpful employees, I wouldn't feel so loyal. But then they don't. And if the service started to slip, I'd hang in for a while--out of loyalty--and try to convince them to improve it which might stand a chance of keeping it better for everyone. I think an element of that kind of loyalty is part of what makes Linux go on improving. People want to stay with it and make it better, not dump it for something else.

  • I think in a few ways this is analogous to what happens to local stores when WalMart comes to town. Vendors offering mediocre value get crushed on price, and go out of business.

    Microsoft looks like they will try yet again to offer middle of the road quality for a price that undercuts existing competitors.

    However, their logic is a bit flawed. The article stated that this Internet venture was funded to protect the core software cash flow. This could be rationalized in a few ways.

    1. By showing customers how much great, free, Internet access they get when they buy a PC with Windows on it.
    2. By offering custom content that is available only over the free connection.
    3. By giving price discounts on purchases made while connected over the free connection.

    Not saying that all or any of these will work, but they're worth talking about. As far as the custom content goes, hasn't Microsoft already tried that and failed? (Slate - now free?).

    Price discounting can't go too deep, otherwise it also becomes a subsidized activity, and the whole thing collapses back on strategy one, using the free connection to drive Windows sales.

    That can draw in quite a few people, but many people still pay for premium TV channels when broadcast is available. Somewhat of a mixed analogy, being a comparison of service to content, but if you equate using Windows to annoying TV commercials then the point is in there.

    Stated differently, people that want a good steak won't stop wanting a good steak just because there are free, overcooked, greaseburgers just waiting to be picked up out of the warming tray.

    Any ISP, AOL or tiny, that serves up real value can survive this.

  • Uh..
    wtf? From my point of experience, if you can charge $10 a month, you are NOT a smaller ISP. Examples of NOT smaller ISP's:

    Erols Price plan of 9.95 as I recall
    AOL I believe they have a 5.95 plan
    Mindspring heaven help us...

    Examples of smaller ISP's:

    Look in your Yellow pages.

    Remember, also, the small ISP are the ones who the sysadmin also does the phone tech support. he's the one you get to call and whine to when "your internet doesn't work" or "my mail doesn't work." Better yet, "My MSN doesn't work," when, of course, they don't HAVE MSN. However, sense MS through MSN banners all over creation in 98 and IE4, and about 70% default to home.msn.com, subs don't know the difference. Also remember, the little ISP's pull the favors, give you the linux shell account that get's you started, and have a desire to get it working. (An unknamed conglomo service that involves a television) apparently had an east coast router that was down for an extremely long period of time. And you can't call and complain (un-named service) and bitch at them cause their Tx is down, can you? No, you get a recording.

    W/out the small ISPs, we'd all be controled by MSN, Microsoft, Erols, etc...

    Think about that next time. It might cost more, but look at what you get...
  • The article on zdnet is clearly credited to "Nick Wingfield and David Bank, WSJ Interactive edition".
  • I agree. Imagine a cable local loop where the service was free? It'd be a lovely 28.8k modem attached to the Ethernet NIC since the loop would be so clogged. I'd be willing to pay to upgrade to a limited local loop where there'd be no more, than, say, 50 users. DSL is more interesting since the topology is different. The bottle neck would be moved to the providers network. Imagine a free DSL service?
  • Idiot! Isn't that what the internet is all about? Communication? So, what you are saying, is that all mail should be banned from a server if the originating server is not the same as the destination server? Yea! Let me send mail to my 4 friends who have the same ISP as me! This is fun! I wonder what the rest of the world is doing right now?? If only I could send some mail to someone else!


    In order for the Inet to work, there must be standards... AOL posted their standards, MS followed them. This is one instance where Borg Bill and his minions are right.

  • I hear what you're saying. I think a more analogous situation would be the broadcast TV networks with their virtual lock on content before cable appeared. Its much easier for an interest group like the xtian right, e.g., to pressure an oligarchy than a distributed network of providers. ISPs have been rather ready and willing to take down sites at the slightest hint of a lawsuit. If there are only a few ISPs that means some sites will be effectively banned from the internet. As you say oligarchies are not necessarily bad, but I don't want one to control any aspect of the internet, if it can be avoided.

    Jim
  • Absolutely. I don't especially fault ISPs for this behavior of canning sites (nor admire it!), and you're right it has little to do with how many there are. With zillions of ISPs though, a site can easily find another ISP that is willing to take them on (until the next threat at least.) If the choice narrows it will get much harder to "route around" censorship, that's all.

    Jim

  • AOL is the most sorry isp in the business. Email addresses change all of the time. AIM will run on any service. MSN (even though it is sorry as well) allows direct access to the internet without going through their own idiodic program. Anything is better than aol.
  • I do not think it is going to be very long before ISP's *have* to offer free connections, and need to make their money elsewhere (through advertisements, online stores, etc.).

    While you might be right for most ISP's, I for one (and probably many others) would be more than willing to pay a fair price for a "premium" ISP that offers good service without all the ads. There should be enough of a market that at least some will survive.

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  • I'm just a little confused about Microsoft's strategy.

    I thought they all but abandoned the dial-up market a year or so ago, because it was obviously a swampland of lost money. Now, I guess mainly out of paranoia, they're returning to try and beat AOL.

    I know Andy Grove says that only the paranoid survive. Yes, yes, yes. But perhaps only the paranoid die by bleeding cash to try and protect their franchise? If you want a realistic Microsoft death scenerio, this might be the best one yet.

    D

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  • You know, it's kinda funny - when I wrote the ISP FAQ at http://www.amazing.com/internet/ , I practically begged ISPs not to use NT. I told them that they were supporting their worst potential enemy, and that was a pretty dumb thing to do.

    I don't think many of them believed me, but can anyone doubt the truth of that statement now? Sadly, during most of that time, they were more than happy to take the free MSIE browser. Now they face the consequences :-(.

    D

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  • So in a sense, These companies are becoming more and more like Television stations. Where you can get the entertainment, but you just have to put up with the advertisements/commercials. Broadband technologies will move it even further in this direction.

    Actually, it's exactly _unlike_ TV stations. TV broadcasts were free in the US at the beginning. Now cable TV (people paying at least $20/month) is in something like 80% of US homes. DSS and other systems are on the rise, too. The president of NBC recently floated the idea of making NBC a cable station, as a way to get back at affiliates.

    Besides the premium movie channels (which cost even more money/month), there is plenty of advertising on cable networks, because advertising alone isn't going to pay the bills. Broadcast networks get money from affiliates (and some get money from producing shows, like Fox, WB, and UPN. ABC, CBS, and NBC have some restrictions placed on them by the FCC. They might have been lifted recently, though). Newspapers and magazines resell their content and some own other media outlets (For example, The Washington Post Company owns Newsweek and several cable companies under the name CableOne). I can't think of a single example of a media outlet which is funded soley by advertising.

    If anything, internet access is going to be like any utility, not like a TV network. There's no free electricity, no free water, no free phone service, and free TV is going the way of the dinosaur. Why would there be free internet access ?

    -jon

  • Have you ever wondered why people buy Kleenex instead of Puffs facial tissues? It's the same reason that people use AOL, familiarity. Let me illistrate with a real story:

    In my effors to fund my education I work for the school tech support. Our school has free 56K dialup access. Our outgoing phone lines still hardly keep up at night with outgoing AOL users dialing in. They pay the money when they have faster, more reliable, commercial free access with tech support. It gets worse. When I go around installing 10/T network cards in fellow students computers I get people who still want to be able to dial out to AOL, dual T1s for free vs AOL 33.6 for a monthly fee and they choose AOL. I am nice enough to show them how they can be connected to AOL through our dual t1s and it is faster (after I fail to try to tell them AOL is evil) and they pay a smaller monthly fee.

    If Microsoft offers dual T1 lines to everyone's home for free and sends real people out to support it they will still lose. AOL is unstoppable. Those disk wars they had a few years back paid off. They have a loyal (albiet ignorant) customer base. The only way to defeat AOL would be through education, and that's a whole new topic.

  • I do not think it is going to be very long before ISP's *have* to offer free connections, and need to make their money elsewhere (through advertisements, online stores, etc.).
    So in a sense, These companies are becoming more and more like Television stations. Where you can get the entertainment, but you just have to put up with the advertisements/commercials. Broadband technologies will move it even further in this direction.
    Most of the small ISP's will not make it, and this market will soon become an oligarchy, with a few huge companies trying to snare market share from the others through heavy advertising.

Computers are useless. They can only give you answers. -- Pablo Picasso

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