Monday, July 19, 1999 Published at 14:46 GMT 15:46 UK
AOL's free ISP targets 'lads'
Lads' mag Maxim sums up Netscape Online's target audience
By Internet Correspondent Chris Nuttall
America Online, the world's largest online service, has finally joined the subscription-free Internet access revolution, announcing Netscape Online, a new "laddish" Internet Service Provider (ISP) for the UK.
AOL UK lost its Number One ISP spot to freeserve and was forced to slash its unlimited-net-access subscription rate from £16.95 to £9.99 in May.
AOL's multi-brand strategy
But AOL UK still has 600,000 subscribers, its sister service Compuserve has 400,000 and the introduction of Netscape Online suggests it at last has a strategy in place to take on its free ISP competitors:
New slice of Net pie
AOL UK's Managing Director David Phillips says Netscape Online can be the best in its class with its "cool" brand name and services. He feels the content of rivals such as freeserve fails to appreciate the audience they are serving.
Mr Phillips disputes that AOL has lost market share in the face of the free ISP movement, claiming AOL UK has 1.5m actual users.
"We have taken time to study this, asked whether this is undermining our flagship position or whether it's creating a new segment. We believe this is a separate value segment, a new slice of the Net pie."
Netscape Online will launch in mid-August with local call access, 20Mb of free Webspace, unlimited e-mail addresses and 50p-a-minute technical support for members by telephone.
Analysts gave a lukewarm reception to the announcement:
"Our research shows that rather than there being different users, its users having different needs," said Shobhit Kakkar of Fletcher Research.
"The average Net user has 1.4 ISP accounts and 71% of AOL users have more than one account. Netscape Online is a great Internet brand but will AOL members use AOL UK for its content and then Netscape to surf the Web?
" It's a sensible move and I don't think they're coming too late to the market because the switching barriers between free ISPs are very low."