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Earthlink and Mindspring Merge 156

bee writes "Yet another ISP merger-- Earthlink and Mindspring this time. The new company will keep the Earthlink name, and will apparently be the 2nd largest ISP in the country. Yahoo has the story here." Together, they'll have over 3 million members. Not exactly AOL, but enough to have some serious clout in the ISP business.
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Earthlink and Mindspring Merge

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    ... one of the upper level support techs who knows first-hand what's going on:

    They don't cancel the account, generally. They cancel you in the RADIUS server that UUnet checks. In other words, you cannot log in to a UUnet number, but you can log in to PSInet, Earthlink, Level 3 or even Sprint.

    Admittedly, with any large company you get mistakes. In theory, no one gets cancelled for UUnet unless they have other local numbers. It is supposed to be a network migration. doesn't work. And sometimes people get cancelled (all the way) by mistake. But that's a completely unrelated issue to the UUnet stuff.

    I just want to set the record straight. Let's hope this Post Anonymously checkbox works.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Awright, I admit it, when I'm not reading /., I've been known to download an MP3 or two in my copious free time :-)

    One of the things that's always impressed me about Mindspring is the quality of their newsfeed, both in terms of propagation (i.e. all the parts of a post tend to get there) and retention (upwards of a week, even in alt.binaries.*). For $20/month, Mindspring beats the pants off of any of the commercial news services. Next to no spam in the text hierarchies, holds up remarkably well even during periods of heavy DipSlime attacks, and virtually no spam, even in the alt.binaries.mp3.* hierarchy. I can quickly scan through the headers, pick the songs I want, and let cron and a little bit of perl take care of the dirty work during off-peak hours.

    Any ELN users care to comment on the quality of Earthlink's NNTP feed, both in text and binary hierarchies? How about any Netcom users - have you noticed a change, for better or worse, in news quality since Mindspring bought Netcom?

    Or do these merger/takeovers generally affect only the corporate level, but leave the network largely intact? (i.e. Have Netcom customers kept using * servers, and can I expect that Mindspring customers will keep using * servers, and Earthlink customers will keep using * servers?)

    (If any Mindspring execs are reading this - have someone buy your news admin team a case of beer. They've earned it, and I've referred several customers to Mindspring largely on the quality of its newsfeed. Anyone with sufficient cash can build an ISP to let people surf the web. A quality newsfeed, on the other hand, is something not everyone can offer. It scales nicely - one big disk farm and a few people to run it can serve a lot of customers - and it's a great way to differentiate yourself from the competition.)

  • Im surprised to read all the bad feelings towards mindspring, I have been using them for 2+ years w/o problem. Occasionally POPs get busy, but it is usually remedied reasonably quickly. The few times I have called them they have been pleasant, but I dont remember the hold times. Im wondering if my experiences have been so different then everyone elses because Im in atlanta (where mindspring is based I believe). disclaimer: I dont work for or represent mindspring.

  • This merger makes the largest ISP, as AOL
    is an Online Service Provider, not an Internet
    Service Provider.

    AFAIK, AOL does not provide the user with an IP address when they log in. An ISP provides the
    Internet, of which an IP addy is an important part.

    Of course, if I'm wrong in this, I'm just a big

    I shoulda gone to work for Mindspring when they
    tried to recruit me in '95.

    Your Favorite OS Sucks.

  • Just Sky and I, sitting in a dumpy little office on Los Feliz Blvd, with 10 modems on a cheap metal shelf we got from a liquidation sale, and a couple of Sun workstations.

    Man, EarthLink has changed a lot since those days. I worked with Sky to get the whole thing started, and in fact it was my casual suggestion that he start an ISP before writing Internet-integration software that got the whole thing going... He'd come to me to develop what he'd called "Internet Navigator", which was basically his concept of having everything (mail, telnet, gopher, ftp clients) all bundled together to work as one package.

    The idea being that all of it worked well for the end user - in those days, things were very much piece-meal. Also, this was in the Mosaic v0.9 days - MCOM wasn't even around yet.

    One night over dinner I told him that before he got into trying to write a do-it-all Internet package, he ought to work out what was needed on the ISP end of things first.

    And so he asked for my help, I quit my job, he secured some funding from some smart VC's, and we opened up shop... I was one of the two original founders, but since I left after 6 months and disassociated myself with ELN, I guess I don't count... :)

    I just didn't share Sky's vision for world domination - I could tell, even then, that he was going to tread on whoever he needed in order to be as rich as possible, and I guess that's what's happened over the years. That's the way money works, I guess.

    Still, its interesting to have been part of EarthLinks primordial history, and to have watched it all grow into a mega-corp so fast.

    And even more amusing is the fact that they're now merging with Mindspring - in those days, Sky used to quiver with fear over ISP's like that (Primenet was the other major competitor for the SoCal area).

    I wish all my old EarthLink friends best of luck with this merger. You guys that have stuck through everything that's gone on over at ELN deserve whatever you get out of this MindSpring deal...
  • I was using netcom for years w/ my Linux box & ppp with no problems. Now, after switching to mindspring/netcom, I all of a sudden can't send email with xfmail. Getting mail, no problem, sending mail....well all I get is operation not permitted or some such blather. No change on my config..... Maybe it's time to go local.

  • I don't know who would be a good choice for a national ISP, but if I wanted an international ISP, I'd go with IBM. (check out -- they have access numbers everywhere!) I'm sure they fairly well blanket the US as well.
  • I'm wondering if the ISP situation will eventually turn into the same type of situation when Bell was mutilated into many small companies after. I KNOW this is not the same situation, due to the fact that you can change ISP's pretty much at will, but with newer technologies coming in, perhaps several may find some better ones that they 'lock in' for themselves, simular to cable modem access..

    Ideas? Comments?
  • I've had no complaints about the NNTP servers. They're comprehensive as far as I can tell, they keep articles for a good amount of time, a week or so in the heavy traffic newsgroups. And they are fast if you have a fast connection. They require a username and password to access but you can access them from any IP, which is convenient.
  • Unless you use AOL, in which case AOL is the largest spammer.

    The Earthink abuse department is relatively helpful and they have the power to immediately cancel accounts which are used for spamming. A helpful email (full headers etc.) to can do wonders.
  • If it's in email or real mail it's an announcement. And only then if it's spelled out clearly and in readable text. Any other kind of announcement is nice, but honestly, what's the last time you checked your ISP's home page?
  • My other utilities send me real mail when they change things. Somehow they can deal with the customer service spikes. Now granted these messages are intentionally small print and cryptic so maybe that's the answer.

    In any case, most ISPs already send out software upgrades when available. That certainly causes a customer service spike.

  • Apparently the "abuse me" option.

  • 2nd largest ISP and 1st largest spammer.

    Yes, but it saves you the hassle of blocking 2 ISPs on your Mailserver ;-)

    Funny thing is, that that's exactly what I thought when I read about the merger. Most spam I get (and which does not come from .tw or .my - although the Taiwanese begin reacting to complaints) comes from earthlink, mindspring isn't that far from the top either.

    Let them merge with uunet, and despamming your mailbox is as easy as baking cake.

    Just my 2 cents,

  • I guess since I've read it on several comments already it could be slightly redundant, but I figure it is worth a thread of its own.

    Mindspring is a disease for ISPs.

    Now, with that off my back, I can add to the cheer that Netcom subscribers feel. I have had an account with them since 1996, and I felt that they had one of the more dependable services around. Granted there are other services which offered more web space or phone numbers, and granted you paid a little more for Netcom, but they maintained their equipment and things just worked. Since the buy-out, this has no longer been the case. Busy signals are more prevalent, the web page (which used to be fairly easy to navigate) has gone under several changes making it more difficult to find the access numbers (and other member services), and the system just feels slower. I never had problems until the merge.

    I miss my cable modem; at least when it was on the fritz, it was still sending stuff over at T1 speeds.


  • MindSpring offers cable modem service in some cities. They're about to roll out ADSL service in the next few weeks.

    I see ISPs as a commodity. In '92-'93 your ISP really mattered. There were lots of ISPs floating around out there. Many were run by clueless people who were out for a fast buck. Their users were plagued with spotty service, lost email, busy signals, etc.

    Nowadays it really doesn't matter what ISP you use. As far as I'm concerned, an ISP is something that gives you IP connectivity. It doesn't matter who I get it from. If I get busy signals or poor connections to my ISP, I can go elsewhere. I can get an email alias or a webmail account so my address won't change when I move around.

    The only time an ISP really matters is if you need a static IP (which are hard to come by these days) or some other special service that you can easily get from a small local ISP.


  • I understand that you'd like ISPs to send out a postcard or an email to every user whenever they make a change, but that's not practical..

    Let's look at what would happen.

    1) MindSpring sends out a postcard or an email to every customer reading:

    ------------------------------------------------ --
    | Attention Customers: As of the first of next |
    | month we will be blocking outgoing TCP |
    | connections on port 25. You will need to add |
    | as a smarthost in your |
    | MTA configuration to continue to send outgoing |
    | mail. |
    ------------------------------------------------ --

    2) Now, I don't know how many of you have worked at an ISP before, and I don't know how many of you have ever had to deal with your average ISP user, but out of the million-or-so customers MS has, let's estimate that a full 90% of their customers are people without the knowledge to know what port 25 is, what an MTA is, etc. Can you imagine hundreds of thousands of people getting these notices and panicing? Tech support queues would shoot through the roof as support engineers had to explain in great detail to customers that the change doesn't affect them at all.

    3) Another large percentage of users would get ticked off that they're getting a steady stream of emails and postcards from MindSpring announcing every change of service.

    MindSpring tells users that important announcements will be posted on their web page and in mindspring.announce. If you don't want to read it, than that's your problem, but it's there in the account information you got in the mail when you signed up. If you want to get an email when something changes, then use URL Minder or something to monitor the news webpage and email you when something changes.

  • Holy cow. I had forgotten about the nudie pics.. :-) Robbie (wonder if Greenman reads slashdot? Hi Green!)

  • Yes, but reasonable admins don't use ORBS anyway. ORBS has a history of unreasonableness and blocking mail servers out of spite (blocking them because the ORBS admins didn't like the person running them, not because they were a relay).

    More importantly, the MindSpring dialup IP ranges are listed in the DUL, so many, many mail servers won't accept mail from people on dialup connections anyway (unless you relay through your ISP's mail server).

    MindSpring's engineering staff has more clue than
    most other ISPs combined.. :-)

  • > Ummm... no, not from what I know about
    > Scientology. I'd say Sky is exactly the sort of
    > person who is a *bad* representation of
    > Scientology, and in fact I don't think he should
    > be even considered a Scientologist.

    Why is he a bad representation of Scientology? Should he start talking about Xenu in press conferences? Should he start referring to the folks at AOL as SPs? Should all new employees be hooked to an E-Meter? Thetan scanners on the office front door?

    (Xenu loves you!)

  • Tom probably can't make exceptions. AFAIK, the port blocking is done on a network wide basis in the core routers.

    I have several friends that are relaying mail outside of MindSpring using another server that has it's MTA running on an off port. I imagine you could also use QMTP if you're running Qmail to relay to an external system.

    Really, using MindSpring's server as a relay point makes the most sense. If your message can't be delivered on the first try, MindSpring's server can keep trying to deliver it while your home system is disconnected. Besides, many mail systems won't accept mail directly from servers that live on an ISP's dialup network if they're using the DUL.

    Many administrators (not all of which are active in the anti-spam community can't find a reason to ever accept mail from a dialup IP address and will drop it. I've seen mail bounces because of that before.

    I'd bet that greater than 98% of all mail coming direct from ISP dialup IP ranges is spam. It's the only way spammers can really spam effectively anymore- most ISPs have monitors on their mail servers that alert them if someone is sending more than, say, 1000 messages a minute or something like that. Spam software is now getting around that by sending the mail directly from the dialup system.

    Until you've worked at an ISP and had to fight spammers firsthand you'll never really understand this. As annoying as port 25 blocking is, it's the 'wave of the future' for ISPs (some backbone providers even block port 25 from all hosts except their customer's mail servers!)

    You may not like it. It might piss you off. But that's the way it is. Welcome to the modern Internet, where spamming a**holes are causing us more and more inconveniences every day.


  • ORBS is a joke. The RBL/MAPS and DUL are the blacklists most people use. If you're trying to send mail to someone who's ISP is using ORBS, they're missing out on LOTS of legitimate email.

    For example, smtp2|smtp3|smtp5 aren't open relays.
    So why are they listed in ORBS? ORBS is not very well administered and has many legitimate systems listed for no other reason than ORBS doesn't like someone at the site that's being blocked.

    It's a very customer oriented policy. They're keeping spammers from abusing the network.

  • They told me that I was cancelled for either multilinking or logging in twice... Cancelled end of July. same scenario...

    Luckily for me, that led to a search for a new ISP, and found a local cable co that actually had a deal for 64k cable access for $25.00/month...

    The 1000kdown/128kup service was "only" $50.00; which was only $8/month more expensive than ELN+phone line costs for second line...

    Moving was not a big problem since all my "public" mail went to my address, and I kept a web space on a third party server....

    Havnt looked back...
  • Just be sure not to use MLPPP with their services... They will disconnect your account as a "Level A" offence... In the same category as Spam and mailboming...

    Their system allows the connection.... (at least on the UUNet pops in some areas), and even though their AUP states one connection PER MACHINE, they still consider it as having multiple users with the same account....

  • Is Earthlink the ISP that was started by Scientologists, or am I confusing it with another one? Can anyone refresh my failing memory or correct me on this? Any good links?
  • Is Earthlink still in the hands of the Co$, or have they removed that taint from their hands? I don't want my data going anywhere near a machine that's owned by the RonBots.
  • Mindspring's DSL rollout *does* include NT compatible software. And yes, they *will* support *nix/*BSD OS's. However, if you're on the latter, you have to get your NIC working first. ;)
  • A spokeswoman did not immediately know how much of the equity in the new company will be owned by each group of shareholders.

    The spokeswoman did not immediately know what the total size of the board will be, nor its composition.

    Okay, that's 3 things she didn't know, so what exactly DID the spokeswoman know that wasn't offered in the press release? I think they'd hire better PR people. Popping off a merger with no information from the company's Spokesperson doesn't seem very responsible.

    -- Give him Head? Be a Beacon?

  • Mindspring has a schedule for ADSL rollout in a few cities this fall. (Atlanta, SF, Charlotte, among others, I believe) $50/mo 1.5Mbdown 256Kb up.
  • I'm in the same boat here.

    I dumped Earthstink as well, after only about a month and a half of pure hell. Earthlink has been the Satan of online services. Before that, I thought I knew what bad internet service was like from hopping my way through about a dozen of them, but I'd only experienced poor to mediocre service before Earthlink. Earthlink showed me new depths of frustration, and almost led to me to, um, ...replace my monitor unnecessarily.

    Not only would I get busy signals all the time, the only reliable thing about Earthlink was that I could count on the connection to go comatose after somewhere between 5 and 90 minutes into the dialup. Usually much closer to the 5 minute mark.

    When I say comatose, I mean dead as a doornail, in all ways, except that connection would still be there. It wouldn't pass any meaningful data (not even a ping), but dammit, once comatose, it wouldn't drop your call, either!

    It was always either that, or a random disconnect in the 15-40 minute range. Never both. And their news server sucked, too. This was less a year ago.

    Then I switched to Mindspring, with access in all the cities I travel to.

    Since then, I have never (not even once) heard a busy signal, and I've not had any connections go comatose on me, either. My connections stay connected. Every time I leave it up overnight when I go to bed, it's there when I get up, happily churning off data in the morning.

    Further, the news server has been quite excellent. This is coming from an avid newsgroup user. If it weren't for Usenet, I probably would have went straight back to Compuserve when I first got on the net about 5 years ago.

    Now I realize that no service is great on all POPs, but for the "rust belt" area that I travel, it really has been this good. I've never needed tech support other than to ask a pointy question or two of a senior tech (whom I always engage before asking, so as not to confuse the front-line droids), so I don't know about that part.

    Now this. The worst internet service I've ever had is merging with the only one that I've ever been satisfied with...

    The only bright spot? I'll have cable modem service here in less than 3 months, and could get by with NetZero, or a minimalist account with AOL (eeeww) or something like that for travel.

    Here's hoping that Mindspring/Earthlink doesn't suck for all of those out there who don't have many options. But incompetence is almost always like a contagious disease, and I'm pretty sure that Earthlink will have Mindspring totally screwed up within 6 months.

    Best regards,
  • All my spam comes from Korea or Poland, or earthlink. I have never been spammed by a Mindspring account, unless you count my Dad, who sends me unsolicited emails all the time...
  • Wow, nudie pictures in the offices? Sounds like an interesting workplace.

    Scientologists are pretty much jackbooted thugs, but from reading his response to the Scientology crisis on Earthlink, I think he's a decent guy. I thought he expressed the case for his service quite well.


  • Wow, nudie pictures in the offices? Sounds like an interesting workplace.

    The Church of Scientology organization is more or less a bunch of jackbooted thugs, but many individual Scientologists are fine people. From reading his response to the Scientology crisis on Earthlink, I think he's a decent guy. I thought he expressed the case for his service quite well.


    PS If there were two copies of this message posted, this is the one that best expresses my opinion.

  • I think many of the early hires were Scientologists, and at least in the early days, that coloured the philosophy of the company.

    My impression is that this has faded significantly as more professional management took over.


  • From what the press releases are saying, it sure sounds like Sky Dayton no longer has much of a role at the company.

    I heard a few years back from a friend of mine who worked for them that the Scientology influence continued. But I suspect the Mindspring takeover will all but end it, since it would appear that Mindspring management will be calling the shots.


  • Gosh, I remember my Netcom shell account - I was dhd in 1994 - 1997 or thereabouts. I don't think I even cancelled it - they just stopped billing for it one day and I didn't bother reinstating it.

    What I remember the most was everyone's complaints about terrible service. The systems seemed to be holding together through glue and bailing wire. System freezes were common. But there was always the bizarre L.Detweiler ( to make things just bizarre enough to be real - at least until they finally deleted his account.

    It reminds me of the curious maxim that communities online are best created by adversity. Facing common problems, having the Netcom administration as a common enemy, it felt almost like home.

    Pity nothing like that exists anymore.


  • I think if you visit my ancient anti-Scientology pages at , there are a few tidbits on that subject. Sky Dayton went to a Scientology-based public school, and a number of Scientologists apparently infiltrated management. Earthlink was a haven for Scientologist spammers (they tried overwhelming the alt.religion.scientology newsgroup with cheesy pro-CoS material, but I think it did them more harm than good). Eventually, though, they had to kick off the spammers because it was damaging their reputation as a service.

    About a year ago, someone I know who worked there said the Scientology connection was still alive and well. However, as I said in another response, I think the Earthlink connection will kill that off. We can only hope.


  • someone who worked for Earthlink, I would think this is a good thing, most customers means more and more money. I don't work for Earthlink, I'm one of their customers and I think this is really shitty. This means more people sucking bandwidth on my cable modem and taking up the dialup modems. The only reason I cant see that Mindspring and Earthlink would merge is to stop confusing people when they end up on a Mindspring domain, the two companies have been borrowing each other's dialups for years now. Eh oh well, I'm just complaining.
  • I use news quite a bit, and for the most part I don't have problems, but there ARE hiccups sometimes. I can tell you that there are projects in the works to improve the EarthLink NNTP service.
  • Hrmm... Regarding the BCC limitation, this is either a mail client problem or some one-time misconfiguration. We (EarthLink) don't limit the BCC (RCPT TO), it would PO too many people (namely me).
  • faced with s similar dilema when my university shell account expired, i found it impossible to locate a *decent* isp that offered shell access(the only one around here that did only had 33.6 dialups and was $27 a month) the best solution i came up with was to get a dialup account with whoever and then for $4 a month get a shell account at, or is it .net?
  • Yah. And my bank sends me notices to tell me that they have changed the rules. In really small print. In the middle of a paragraph of small print about truely boring topics.
  • I was a Netcom customer too, and although they weren't super, they had really good deals on webhosting for a company that wasn't running out of someone's garage. When they were bought by Mindspring, they stopped billing me for 4 months and then sent me 4 months of bills at once, at their new higher prices (although they sent me an email saying that as part of the buyout, they promised they would retain my same webhosting rates. Oh yeah, and the two other "pointer" domain names I had got screwed up in the process. Now we're merging with Earthlink? I know there's some adjustments that you have to deal with in mergers, but to have this come right after I dealing with the Netcom/Mindspring thing is like pingpong. Maybe I'll do what my friend did and just get DSL...
  • I guess that makes you a big windbag then because AOL does give you an IP address when you connect just like any other ISP.
  • Comparing my experiences across several ISPs including small local and big national, I find Earthlink to be pretty good. They actually put a lot of effort into blocking it, catching some customer heat for restricting SMTP servers to trusted IP blocks and having a Usenet back-off trick that makes things go inanely slow if you spam.

    Oh, yes, once upon a time they were the worst. Just ask them and they'll tell you. But that isn't the case anymore. They still get the hit-and-run people. Buy account, spam a lot, lose account an hour later after sending a load of messages ... but the way to avoid that isn't quite clear.

    DISCLAIMER: I do work there now, in a capacity where I talk to the network operations people a lot, so I have a much clearer but perhaps emotionally bent view of internal spam-fighting than most.
  • I have yet to see one person give a legitmate explanation of how port 25 blocking prevents them from doing anything other than spamming.

    By the nature of SMTP, it makes no difference which server you relay through. It certainly does not prevent you from picking up mail from other accounts (via POP, IMAP, or whatever), and it does not prevent you from setting whatever "From:" address you want.

    If you are concerned about security, you shouldn't be using plain SMTP anyway. You should be setting up a VPN or some other encrypted tunnel which certainly wouldn't be on port 25.
  • There are also times when, to portray a more professional look, you don't WANT mail being routed through your ISP, rather you want mail being routed through your own server.

    That doesn't even come close to qualifying as a legitimate reason for not having port 25 blocking because 1) All decent SMTP servers are going to mark your mail with the dialup ip address anyway; and 2) Anyone who looks into mail headers would certainly be knowledgable enough to realize the necessity of having ISPs involved in mail transmission.

    Saying that the only people who use mail servers other than their own ISPs are spammers is simply wrong and asking for a "legitimate" reason does not negate the fact that I'm paying for unrestricted access. That is reason enough in my opinion.

    I never said that only spammers use other mail servers. I said there is no reason why people other than spammers need to use other mail servers.

    If the ISP calls their access unrestriced, then does port 25 blocking without telling anyone, then yes, they have an ethics problem with their advertising. However, I don't see any technical problem with their service.
  • I just decided to leave Earthlink, here's why:
    I just had ADSL installed on Tuesday, Earthlink is my ISP and PacBell takes care of the DSL equipment.
    First problem is that Earthlink does not offer static IP's for DSL. They use dynamic addressing and some sort of proprietary software to set up your connection so what it amounts to is basically "dial up" DSL. When you want on you bring up the dialog box and click Connect, when you're done you Disconnect.
    Second problem, for me anyway, is that their install software is not available (dons flameproof suit) for NT. Not for 2 to 3 months, so you must be running Win95 or 98 (possibly Mac also but not sure). As for Linux support, don't even think about it.
    I'm not sure if the merger with Mindspring will change this policy or not, but for now Earthlink is out.
  • Personally I've found Earthlink's news feed to be extremely poor. Rarely do all parts of a post show up at the same time and more often than not parts never show up.
    Just last week I replied to an article that was itself a reply to an article that showed up 3 days after I posted my reply to the reply.
  • I left Earthlink a year ago and switched to Mindspring, mainly because I kept getting busy signals 90% of the time. Now it appears I'll have the worst of both worlds. Oh well, I'll be switching to ADSL soon anyway.

    Shane H.
  • I don't think that the Mozilla team would have any luck getting "MindLink" to adopt their browser. Here's why: The MindSpring software package REQUIRES that you have IE4 or higher on your system. You can still use Netscape for the browser, but the interface of the software is dependent on some IE files. IMO, that's totally lame.

    I'd bet that the EarthLink 5 mentioned is the same thing, just with EarthLink logos instead of MindSpring ones.
  • I have a shell only account with (Owned by Steve Jackson Games.) Being a game geek, I once had the account mainly for access to GURPS playtest materials, but I quickly found that the shell account much more useful as I became more of a computer geek and less of a gamer geek.

    Additionally, the ten bones a month has kept my email address the same for the last few years.

    Besides that, I am an Illuminati Online member. How cool is that?

    Check em out.


  • Yea, I'll turn the lights off if you don't.

    I'm still a shell user on netcom. When I want that fancy web stuff, I run slirp. If the shell accounts all go away now that Earthlink is here, at least I'll still have shell accounts at home on my Linux boxen any time I want. Maybe, when I need a new provider, I'll even see if DSL is finally available in my neighborhod.
  • Actually, given Earthlink's origins, wouldn't "MindHead" be a more appropriate name?
  • For the record, I did contact support via online chat and the tech I spoke with was not very familiar with the policy. When I asked where it had been posted online he had to go ask someone. After a 15 minute wait, he sent me to a URL buried deep in the knowledge base.

    How can you hold your customers to an expectation of knowledge that your own employees don't even possess?

    Brewer sends out an email to EVERY Mindspring member almost monthly, how hard would it have been to mention it in that? Word it so that the non-techies don't even understand it and don't worry but the people who DO understand it can be informed and make decisions accordingly?
  • I believe that they have forgotten, or maybe outgrown some of them, but CV&B #5 still holds true: We will preserve and protect our company's resources with at least the same vigilance with which we protect our own personal resources.

    Weren't the CV&B's numbered by priority with much of the first four being customer oriented? I guess you're right, it does seem that Mindspring is only looking out for Mindspring at this point.
  • Yeah, I got the "spam prevention" explanation when I asked about this. While I understand their concerns and applaud their pro-active approach towards spam, I can't condone the penalization of the masses for the actions of a few.

    The fact that no one was notified of this change also makes it stick in my craw.

    I'm with you, I'm all for no more spam, but if the cost is my freedom to send email through more than one server ... I'll take the spam.
  • Not only has the service gone to the crapper for the 4 years I've been with Mindspring, their policies suck now too. Like their policy to block ALL port 25 traffic to all servers other than which means you can't send mail thru ANY server other than Mindspring's.

    They still advertise "unrestricted" net access but that's pretty damn restrictive if you ask me.

    I guess this is to be exptected tho ... Murphy's Law, the bigger they get ... the more they suck.
  • If I own/lease a dedicated server, why should I not be allowed port 25 access to that server due to my dialup's restrictions? People make prank phone calls all the time but you don't see Bell Atlantic restricting my dial out at home due to this.

    There are also times when, to portray a more professional look, you don't WANT mail being routed through your ISP, rather you want mail being routed through your own server.

    Saying that the only people who use mail servers other than their own ISPs are spammers is simply wrong and asking for a "legitimate" reason does not negate the fact that I'm paying for unrestricted access. That is reason enough in my opinion.
  • {smtp2|smtp3|smtp5} are all listed by ORBS. That means sending mail through them is basically hit or miss since various sites WILL deny delivery based on that listing.

    So not only do they force us to use their server, they force us to use servers that, in many cases, are BANNED from sending mail in the first place.

    Nice customer oriented policy.
  • An increase in customer support calls is not an excuse for keeping your paying customers in the dark on an policy change that directly affects their usage of your product.

    If anything it only shows their disregard for the customers who made them a TOP ISP and their tunnel vision in regards to the bottom line.

    "We can't do the right thing, it would cost too much."

    And the sad thing is, I've met Mike McQuary and he's a good guy. He had a grand ideal of what Mindspring would be ... the consumer's ISP ... well, that idea has been trampled by greed and profit mongering.
  • .. Unless someone else has any suggestions?

    Yah. Get a local ISP. The kind where everyone knows the first name of the guy in charge. The kind of ISP where a call to the service department means you can hear dogs barking in the background and the resident geek's wife watching soap operas in the living room.

    And oh yah - usually the service is cheaper and they support Linux. Hell, most locals run ON Linux.

    Mine uses FreeBSD, tho. Sue me.

  • A local ISP doesn't do you much good when you're traveling all the time.

    I'll probably get shot for saying this, but when I was doing nation-wide field support for my company, I was using MSN [The only reason I stopped using MSN was because I got DSL]. I never had a problem with their service, and once the account is initially set-up with their software [on Windoze 9x of course] it was no problem setting up a normal PPP connection for them on any computer [tested with MacOS, BeOS, Linux, NT].

    Of course, their tech-support was clueless when it came to other OS's, even to the point of not knowing that their supposed to say that MSN won't work with non-Windows OS's, but if you generally know what you're doing,and have access to 1 windoze box for setup and account maintenence [and looking up local #'s when you travel], then MSN is nice [or was for me]. I never had problems with busy signals at home [San Jose] and rarely got busy signals when on the road. The only place I ever had busy-signal problems was in Odessa, Tx [middle of nowhere] which uses the same UUNET dialup for AOL, MSN, and any other ISP's that use UUNET POPs.[I'm assuming Earthlink and Mindspring fall into that category]


  • Dude, you are in the best possible location in the world when it comes to ISP choices. I can't believe that you put up with an ISP run by the criminal nut-cult known as Scientology.

    Off the top of my head, you can go with (a small, friendly ISP based in berkeley: I use them myself, and they're great!),,,, and there must be at least a dozen others with local dial-ins you can get to.

  • Ever since Mindspring gobbled up my ISP, I've had nothing but trouble. Luckily, I have DSL now. I wouldn't recommend that anyone have anything to do with Mindspring. And any Earthlink customers should leave while they still can. Mindspring made me wait on hold for 30 minutes(!!!) to cancel my account. That's the only way they said they allowed cancellations.
  • Sorry I don't have any alternitive suggestions (other than a local ISP), but I'd strongly recommend NOT having anything to do with Mindspring. They've caused me more trouble than I care to think about.
  • I can't say anything either way about the Mindspring Engineering people. But the customer service department needs to be hit by a couple times by a clue-by-four. Especially the billing department. I never had any problems with either one relating to the actual service (though I may have had a few less busy signals once Mindspring took over). But man, my experiences with the customer service department has soured the whole thing for me.

    Also, a disclamer: Please don't take this the wrong way, I'm sure Mindspring has a wonderful engineering department.
  • Remember, the goal is to - by default - kill the relay-rapers, who, sadly, outnumber the legitimate users of third-party relay by a huge margin. Here's the word from Tom TaTom, Mindspring's abuse admin, from a posting in July 1999:

    "...We have not taken a position of refusing to make exceptions overall" []

    Yeah, the way Mindspring rolled out the port-25-blocking was pretty lame, and Tom, by virtue of his position, sounds like he had to choose his words carefully in that post, but it sounds to me like he's willing to listen. Tom's got plenty of clue.

    On a technical level - while the following idea won't solve the case where you're relaying through a server for which you have authorization to relay but don't have administrative access... if you do own the server through which you're relaying, I'd imagine you could have it listen for SMTP traffic on a port other than port 25. Your outbound mail goes to your "other relay" via this other port. Or you can just relay outbound mail through, and fetch your incoming mail via POP. (Disclaimer: I haven't given any of these schemes because I haven't had the need to relay outside of Mindspring's network. Anyone who has put thought into this issue, please post your thoughts and/or solution... sounds like it's in demand!)

  • I just got a free Earthlink coaster, er I mean CD in the mail this week. I guess they don't cleanse their mail lists against their customer base since I've had an earthlink account for about 2 years. The CD had Netscape 4.04 and IE 5 - but they encourage you to install IE at every opportunity.

    BTW - I examine the headers of every SPAM I get - I can only remember seeing one that originated from Earthlink. I sent it to them and they responded that his account had been shut down.

    Also, their mail servers automatically ignore all BCC's after the 15th address, which is a pain when I need to blast something out to 30 odd friends, but does make it damn hard to use their servers to relay SPAM.
  • I was just trying to figure out who to go with as a national ISP, Earthlink or Mindspring. Guess I don't have to worry about that now.

    .. Unless someone else has any suggestions?

    Donald Roeber
  • A local ISP doesn't do you much good when you're traveling all the time.

    -Thats- why I need a national ISP. I can get a DSL line for my apartment, and leave the linux box up while I'm away.
    Donald Roeber
  • Personally, I prefer the local ISPs to the very large ones. The bigger the company the longer you wait on hold. My local guy is fast, friendly, available, offers Unix shell accounts, and most of all, flexible. Besides that, if I get really pissed off at them for any reason, I can drive down to the office and make a big scene. Now that's service! Aren't the big ISPs going to become less and less relevant as we move to the broadband services? Do either Mindspring or Earthstink offer DSL? I'm pretty sure they wouldn't offer cable modem service. Right?
  • Small local ISPs are definitely the way to go. In my case, the owner of the ISP lives right across the creek from me. When I get slow connection speeds, as has been the case lately, I know that he's not just brushing me off when he says that it's the lousy phone lines in our area, because he can't connect from his house any faster than I can. When I've had other problems in the past, I've been able to take my machine down to the office, plug it in right there, and show him. We worked out the problems together. This is a level of service you just can't get from a national ISP.

    In my view, there's also a good philosophical reason for using local ISPs. The Internet's great strength for promoting freedom of expression, the free exchange of ideas, and the subversion of dominant paradigms (for want of a more pithy phrase) lies in its decentralized nature. There is no one computer - or even one network - that an oppressive authority can shut down to silence the ideas for which the Internet acts as a medium. Insofar as these mega-providers represent a trend towards centralization of the Internet's resources, they threaten an attenuation of that strength. If there is a responsibility to resist this trend, it belongs to the technologically literate.

  • Mspg: IE4.01/IE5. Dunno about Earthlink...
  • I wonder how the eng scene is looking right now...
  • Leased PoPs = saturation
  • Disclaimer: I, like Robbie, also no longer work for MindSpring.

    It is perfectly reasonable to not notify every customer about something like this, because of the insignificant percentage of people who used the functionality in the first place.

    I do not know for sure, but I would assume that documentation was on the news section of the web page at some point or another. And it's not unethical, because they did not lie to you about it. I am sure that you were never promised that you would be able to pass through port 25 int he first place, when you signed up for your account.

    And the increase in the support traffic is, indeed, a valid reason for not proactively notifying customers, because as a public company, they are responsible for more than their own wallets. They are now responsible for the state of the wallets of all of their stockholders.

    I remember from way, way back, when I first joined the company as an employee in 1995, being very impressed with the Core Values and Beliefs. They were the things the company was founded upon, and each employee was required to use them as guidelines when interacting with customers, as well as other employees.

    I believe that they have forgotten, or maybe outgrown some of them, but CV&B #5 still holds true: We will preserve and protect our company's resources with at least the same vigilance with which we protect our own personal resources.

    And that was from before they were a public company, with less than 2000 customers. With the number of customers they have currently, imagine the resources that would be necessary to stay above the tide of calls and emails flooding the service folks, if you sent information to all of them, which would be pertinent to less than a percent.


    P.S.: I'm sure the Engineering department is cool, too. Except for Todd. ;^)

  • Ridiculous. Yes folks, I work there. As someone who used to hang around Scientology types (and left when I realized that they're just another band of overzealous religion fiends), and also as someone who's worked both in customer service and in what could be considered "engineering" (but it isn't really called that here), Scientology hasn't got anything to do with the operation of the company. Believe it or not, Sky never tried to make it that way. Your friend was making stuff up. Lots of CEOs are christian or catholic or whatever. Does that automatically mean that everyone in the company has to read the Bible?
  • Confirmed. Whenever an AOLer joins my favorite IRC channels, you always see in their host mask.

    /mode +b *!*@*


  • EarthLink cable isn't likely to be even remotely involved with Mindspring. It's a deal between ELN and Charter.
  • EarthLink changed their news servers so that now, only members can read and post. Before, it was easier for spammers to use ELN news servers, but now it's harder.

    If someone gets caught spamming (mail or news), they can be billed upwards of $200.

  • I used to work in technical support. It makes much more sense to implement this change and not e-mail everyone about it. For one thing, you don't shoot up the load on all your mail servers for half an hour. For another thing, 95% of your customers don't care, and it doesn't make sense to have 1,894,268 people calling tech support over something that hasn't got anything to do with them. For those who are actually smart enough to know what port 25 is, better that they call technical support, or (God forbid) check the help pages the company spent hundreds of man-hours creating.
  • Some years ago, Microsoft decided to build an ISP business. They don't have any of their own POPs. Rather, they lease them from UUNet. UUNet POPs are pretty much world-class, as far as quality goes.

    A few years ago, EarthLink and a few other ISPs signed on to lease POPs from UUNet. UUNet then created the "dial access" infrastructure.

    The way it is currently, EarthLink's POP system is like this: If you live in California, you can dial into EarthLink POPs. Most or all calls are routed from the telcos to ELN'S HQ in Pasadena and answered by hardware there. If the nearest ELN POP is congested, you can also use a UUNet, UUNet-DA (their newer "dial access" POPs), PSINet, Level3 or Sprint POP, depending on what's locally available. If you live outside California, the only difference is that there are no ELN POPs.

    So really, there isn't any shame in getting MSN, because what you're really getting is UUNet or UUNet-DA. All you need is a dialup number and DNS and mail settings. It will work just like with any other ISP.

    Of course, if you get EarthLink, you get more than just UUNet and UUNet-DA. This is beneficial because even though UUNet POPs are great, there are a few dodgy modems out there that just won't talk to them for anything. A common tech support fix (after settings have been verified and the POP itself tested) is to switch a subscriber to a POP on a different backbone (e.g. they were using UUNet, move them to PSI). This actually works from time to time.

  • Do you have a USRobotics modem? On some dialup hardware, USR modems get something called "spiralling death" syndrome. They'll route for a short while and then stop. I think the init string that fixes that was S10=255. If you had to hop between ISPs several times before getting one that didn't manifest that problem, the ones you had before probably all used dialup gear that your modem didn't like. There was another company besides USR that had modems with spiralling death but I forgot which.
  • EarthLink ships a free CD with a product called TotalAccess. You can order this in several flavors. One comes with IE5, one comes with Netscape, and one comes with (I think) both. It works on Win9x and MacOS. It doesn't work with NT, but that's OK because even the oldest NT4 has some version of IE that you can use long enough to download either a newer version of IE or Netscape.
  • EarthLink knows how to deal with ISP acquisitions because it has done this before. Last year it acquired all of Sprint's customers. Everyone in technical support was drilled on exactly what settings everyone was supposed to have. Everyone who was before the acquisition is still The only diff is that they now use ELN's news servers and they lost their Sprint start page in favor of an ELN start page (which is better, I'm told).

    The other big change was that their PPP usernames changed from (for example) 0234DJ@SIA to ELN/0234DJ. That caused some confusion, but all Sprint customers were sent a CD that converted their settings for them. Additionally, the ABC@SIA -> ELN/ABC change didn't take place immediately on all POPs - for many dialup numbers, you could get in either way for a few months.

  • ELN's policy is that if you dial up twice at the same time, it's the same as having two computers dialing up at the same time. It uses the same amount of resources, e.g. ELN has to pay for two connections. If you're an ISDN customer, it's different; you can go dual-channel if you wish. Of course, you eat up your alotted time twice as fast. (It doesn't always work, though, because the way the technology works right now, you have to hit two ISDN TAs that are in the same chassis to go dual-channel; if you hit TAs in two separate chassis, you won't get it.)
  • The only people who post to that group are the ones with complaints. But how many people are going to post to newsgroups because they're happy? Some do, but most of them are too busy using the service to spend time posting complements about it without any sort of prompting. Good service is EXPECTED, so it isn't really commented on that much. Bad service is unpleasant, so naturally anyone who dislikes what they're getting is going to get all ranty about it.
  • Remus, I often tell people that, given the choice between something like a cablemodem on my end and
    a saturated network at the provider's, and a
    28.8 dialup to a unix host which is on a fat pipe,
    I'll take dialup every time. Because I can move data from the network-at-large to my shell very,
    very fast by comparison to any low-cost broadband.
    Also, if you would compare the sheer throughput of
    say, Zmodem, to say, FTP, you will see that the old tech has some perks.

    I should probably mention that I am a former Netcom, MindSpring, and I suppose soon-to-be Earthlink employee. And I've been a Netcom shell account user since 1994.

    I mention the value of the shell accounts every chance I get. I cannot speak for the company but just between you and me and the 10E9
    other /. readers, I would not worry about the shell accounts going away any time soon. MindSpring is not known for doing things that
    generate widespread customer dissatisfaction, and
    everybody who'd consider such a thing knows what
    kind of roasting it would get us.

    However, it's not written in stone that it shall be SunOS4 forever.

    How do you feel about Digital?

    PS: I repeat, I don't speak for MindSpring or EarthLink or anybody else but me.

    PPS: I'm just a little worker bee, so don't
    send me a bunch of questions! I don't know either.
  • .. Unless someone else has any suggestions?

    You need a small local ISP. One that is able to know you on a first name basis, and that understands *your* needs as a customer.

    Otherwise, when you want to let friends telnet into your box, or ftp stuff, or whatever, what'll you do when it's blocked? A local ISP can be accomodating.

    Of course, with a local ISP it's harder to just up and change ISP's because you feel some sort of loyalty for being (one of) their longest customers. Oh well, as long is they are responsive, it's better then a national ISP.

  • A local ISP doesn't do you much good when you're traveling all the time.

    Well, in that case you don't need much. Just find some ISP that has nodes everywhere you'll be and has good rates.

  • i went from having half way descent service as a netcom customer to be a second class citizen of the mindspring empire ... now what?? am i do be a non person as a part of this new juggernaught?? might as well get an aol account. think those aol disks im using to prop up the short leg of the kitchen table are still any good??
  • ( I've also posted this on the local netcom groups, but I thought that ./'ers might enjoy a shell user's rantings. :) )

    I just felt a need to chuckle, and a good way to do that is to make fun of oneself publically. :)

    I've been a Netcom shell user for almost 6 years. I got on the internet well before this multimedia-access 'fad', and just as NCSA was debuting some unlikely scientific tool called Mosaic to browse something that didn't exist yet called the World Wide Web. My shell account has served me through flamewars, mailbombings, death threats, linx searches, gopher queries, and lately convoluted telnet sessions and downloads.

    Why the hell am I still here? :)

    I moved away from my Netcom POP in 98, turning my major presence on the net into a telnet-only wrestling match for productivity. Mindspring bought us out, making the ever-present worries that shell account were about to become extinct a real danger. Now Earthlink wades in, merging with Mindspring in what -- to a shell user -- might best be described as an end-of-the-world safeword-optional orgy on a bed of leather and stock options. The chance of Earthlink maintaining shell accounts is miniscule. We've gone from being the technocapable rulers of the internet to being an unwanted red-haired step-stepchild who is being sent to an ever-shrinking corner.

    Yes, I'm enamored of the pseudonym 'Remus Shepherd', and the simple address is a nugget of gold nowadays. But even this nerdish dinosaur can make out the writing on the wall by now. There must be shell accounts out there somewhere, and for my purposes they're still superior to anything that has the potential to display a banner ad. Time to put my data into a carpetbag, and surf into a new home.

    Oh I'm staying here, of course. Too stubborn not to. I will deactivate my shell account when Earthlink turns off the telnet access to it...not one second before. I may or may not use the account as much, but I'll be here until the network crashes down around me and every power cord is yanked free. $20 per month is a pittance...we're talking sentimentalism, here. Not to mention the best damn productivity tool on the net, even if 'modern' ISPs decry it as ancient and unweildy. They can't even keep their companies from being bought out in rapid succession -- what do they really know? :)

    Just in case I'm not the last one to go -- will someone please remember to turn off the lights? :)

    Remus Shepherd (

  • This bizarre thing about EarthLink is that they won one of the first ISP vs. spammer court battles [] in 1997 against Cyber Promotions. Maybe they got tired of going to court? I don't receive much spam coming from an EL address, but your mileage obviously varies. Most of the spam I get comes from my Web hosting provider's "partners," not any particular set of ISP accounts.

  • "...the 2nd largest ISP in the country."?

    Hmmmm, interesting. I wonder how many /. readers live outside the US.

    I don't mean to complain - I'm just having a bad day :-)

  • "Just be sure not to use MLPPP with their services... They will disconnect your account as a "Level A" offence... In the same category as Spam and mailboming... " This is not true. If you would like more info, contact me. Rob Biggs MindSpring Support Phoenix
  • by Shorty ( 3871 ) on Thursday September 23, 1999 @09:08AM (#1664556) Homepage
    (Disclaimer- I no longer work at MindSpring)

    It took me a while to figure out what was going on with the merger- I hadn't seen a real merger before. Most other 'mergers' are one company buying out another one. This is the real thing- they're forming a new company and then merging both of the existing ones into it.

    From MindSpring's press release, it looks like things go like this: MindSpring changes it's name, gets bigger, and gains an officer.

    As one of the first MindSpring employees, it's sad to see the name change. Especially since MindSpring's name stands for quality as one of the best ISPs in the country, and EarthLink's name stands for spam and Scientologists. But the merger is good news all around- the new EarthLink will be big enough to take on almost any challenge that comes along. Users don't have to worry about someone like AT&T or another Big Ugly Company buying them out.

    It doesn't look like there will be that many changes apart from the name change- Charles and Mike will be in charge of the new company, one of ELNK's officers will stay on as an officer, and Sky Dayton will step down from management and have a seat on the board. The company's headquarters will be at MindSpring's offices in Atlanta.

    As for the comments about MindSpring and how their aquisitions have gone (especially Netcom), Netcom hasn't gone very well, but that's not really MindSpring's fault. Netcom's systems were pretty screwed up, and MindSpring has had their hands full trying to quickly bring Netcom subscribers off of what could be thought of as a sinking ship.
    Some things weren't communicated very well, but that was only because of the urgent need to get people off of the equipment at Netcom.

    I worked at MindSpring for almost four years, and I can say that I've never worked with a more talented group of people. The people they've got in their Engineering department are amazing. Their upper management (McQuary) is excellent. No matter what mistakes they've made, they're a company that's going places, whether they're called MindSpring or Earthlink.

  • Not only has the service gone to the crapper for the 4 years I've been with Mindspring, their policies suck now too. Like their policy to block ALL port 25 traffic to all servers other than which means you can't send mail thru ANY server other than Mindspring's.

    It's to prevent spam. Ah, that wonderful catch-22. You can complain about spam but the only way to *deal* with it is to prevent everyone from running their own smtp server.

    And now, even if the ISP doesn't block the smtp port, it really doesn't matter because large e-mail services,,, and others are using MAPS [] the Mail Abuse Prevention System. So mail is blocked from dynamic IP's anyways :-(

    Freedom with spam, or no spam with no freedom? I think I'll take the spam.

    They still advertise "unrestricted" net access but that's pretty damn restrictive if you ask me.

    I think "unrestricted" refers to web filters and newsgroups. Not ports.

    -Brent -Brent
  • by ripcrd ( 31538 ) on Thursday September 23, 1999 @06:10AM (#1664558)
    Oh, you can't tell me they passed up the opportunity to rename it Mindlink. Earthspring however, would have made them sound all wet.

    Move along nothing to see here, just another Mindlinker.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 23, 1999 @08:21AM (#1664559)
    I've been wondering about bringing this up on Slashdot, but I suppose this is an appropriate time.

    First a little background. My significant other is an upper level tech support representative at Earthlink's main site in Pasadena. I apologize for posting anonymously but I want to prevent reprisals. If anyone would like to contact me privately

    The way Earthlink's dial-up service works is this. They have their own POPs (Points of Presence) which are relatively inexpensive to run. They also lease POPs from three major providers, UUNet, PSInet, and Level 3. In level of quality and cost it goes roughly like UUNet, PSINet, Earthlink, Level 3. The cost of time on a UUNet POP is quite expensive, to the point that any user that uses UUNet for an average amount of time per month generates expenses in excess of the monthly user subscriber fee.

    Earthlink has tried several methods to reduce use of UUNet POPs. Tier 1 tech support agents are told to never give out UUNet numbers. Earthlink employees are not allowed to use UUNet POPs for personal use. However, there are many users for whom UUNet is the only available number, and many more for whom it is the only reliable number.

    After some management shakeups in tech support, a "Tier 3" team has been created, with some of the better techs at Earthlink, who were promised higher pay (which they got). What they did not know was that they would be forced to call up customers who use UUNet POPs and lie to them, tell them that they are logged in twice (which violates the usage agreement) and that their account will be cancelled. They cannot tell them the truth, that they are using expensive POPs, in fact users are not supposed to know that Earthlink leases POPs at all. This activity may or may not be illegal, and if investigated probably only middle management or worse, tech support agents, would take the fall. I feel that it is at the very least unethical and should be known.

    What protections are available to whistle blowers in cases such as this? Does anyone know if this kind of activity is widespread in ISPs?

Life in the state of nature is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. - Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan